The Common Core: A Dream Come True for the Publishing & Media Industries

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Imagine what it would be like if every school district in the U.S. used the same core (standards) curriculum, and that every few years, new textbooks and media products needed to purchased.

If the Common Standards are fully adopted across the nation, then it will be a booming business for media and publishing companies.

But it is not as simple as that.  There are heavy hitters out there that have grasped control of not only digital and print publishing of text material, but also control over high-stakes testing that will be based on one of two systems, the PARCC Assessment System, or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

In an article by Beth Bacon over on Digital Book World, the environment for publishing is booming thanks in part to the adoption by most states of the Common Core.  Bacon also points out that falling tech prices, and the hunger for digital tools and materials has contributed to the boom.  Bacon uses the term “democratization of publishing,” but as I will show ahead, this is hardly the case.   However, it is the fact that American schools will be held accountable to the same set of standards that has propelled publisher ambitions.  In her article, Bacon quotes Justin Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Amplify.  Here is part of that conversation:

“The Common Core is the equivalent of the transcontinental railroad,” said Hamilton, “We’ve moving from a patchwork of standards across the country to common standards from coast to coast. It opens doors to inspire the best and the brightest to develop new, effective curricula.”

These new Common Core-based curricula often integrate digital media and internet connectivity via tablets. Some of the curricula are being developed by new publishers like Hamilton’s company, Amplify. Other digital textbooks are being created by traditional publishers. Still others are being designed by innovative school districts that have developed successful programs and want to share that success with others.

In the past, Hamilton has observed, conventional publishers created textbooks for the largest four states (Texas, New York, Florida and California) then “tinkered around” with those main textbooks to create textbooks the other 46 states. “It’s like conventional publishing has been serving four entries with unlimited side dishes,” said Hamilton. With that model, the driving force in educational publishing had been marketing, not innovation. (Bacon, B. 3 Reasons Educational Publishing is Booming. DBW. July 13, 2013).

But there is something very interesting about Bacon’s article, and that is the companies that she gives a mention: Amplify (education division of News Corp), Khan Academy, c-K12, and Desmos.

But Amplify gets the lions share of space in the article, and here is why.

Amplify is the education division of News Corp, a multinational mass media corporation,   To expand on my concern about the connection between the Common Standards and publishing corporation, New Corp is a good example.  News Corporation owns the following: New Unlimited in Australia, News International in the U.K., The Times, and the Sun in the U.K, Dow Jones & Company, The Wall Street journal, HarperCollins, Fox Entertainment Group, 20th Century Fox film studio, and the Fox Broadcasting Company.  It was also the owner of News of the World, the company responsible for phone hacking.  This is a huge company that seemingly has limitless resources, as well as powerful connections in the world of education.  It’s revenue in 2012 was $33.7 billion, and 48,000 employees.

In 2010, Joel Klein, former New York City School Chancellor was named executive vice president for News Corporation, and then later brought with him executives from New York City to head-up News Corp’s education division.

Amplify, according to its website, is built on the foundation of Wireless Generation, a company that creates mobile assessments and instruction analytics to schools across America.  Amplify’s digital products are “data-driven” and they are rolling out mobile learning for a new world of digital curriculum and assessment.

Doesn’t this sound very familiar.  It sounds like Bill Gates was whispering in the ears of executives at News Corp.

So here we have a gigantic company with unlimited resources ready to create digital materials that will be matched to one set of standards in mathematics and English/Language Arts.

So, Amplify will not only develop digital curriculum (in English/language arts, math, and science) matched to the Common Standards, it just announced a new tablet that was designed by Intel Education.  The new Amplify ELA curriculum is integrated with the new tablet. The new tablet will be out for the 2014 – 2015 school year at about $199 per year per student for three years.   The content that students will use using the tablet will be preloaded and developed by Amplify partners including cK-12, Desmos and others.

The Common Core has created an environment in which big corporations with power and resources will take the largest share of the education market, a market which has become standardized.   But more than that, it will build and sell tools that will result in vast amounts of data being collected (tablets in a wireless environment) on every move a student makes.

In the Digital Ocean, which I wrote about earlier this week, the delivery of instruction in a digital era will make it easy to track and test students, more so than can be done today.

What do you think is the effect of adopting the Common Standards the nature of teaching materials that will reach the classroom?

Photo Sean MacEntee, Creative Commons Attribution

Georgia Legislature Having Difficulty Opting Out or In of Common Core


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Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a bill in the Senate (SB 167) that will essentially opt the state out of the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts and other projects, ideas, technologies that have any glimmer of association with the federal government.   This version of the bill is an anti-common core bill, and is supported by a number of anti-common core groups.

The bill then went over to the Georgia House.  Last week, the house committee listened to 68 speakers, most of whom opposed the bill, but those who support the bill will probably prevail in the end.  At this meeting, one of the speakers was State Superintendent of Education, Dr. John Barge.  He vigorously opposes the bill, and for reasons that are important to the teachers in the state and their students.

The Governor has been a proponent of the Common Core.  However he signed an executive order supporting the common core, but making sure that Georgia will not collect certain information on students and their families.  Then in August, he ordered a seeping review of the Common Core and asked the State Board of Education to “formally un-adopt” some parts of the program.

Today, Sen. William Ligon withdrew his support for SB 167, the bill he introduced into the Georgia Senate.  He’s stated that the revised version of the bill (revised in the House) does not stop Georgia from continuing involvement in the national standards movement.  Ligon has introduced this bill in past sessions, but it never made it out of committee.

Today, the House Education Committee voted against the common core bill, 13 – 7.  If the bill fails, then Georgia’s approach to standards will be the same as it was before the legislators voted on Sen. Ligon’s bill.

So, the Georgia legislature has had a difficult time deciding whether to opt out or stay with the common core.  Right now, the common core is alive and but not well in Georgia.

I support the Education Committee decision to vote against this legislation.  It was not only a bad piece of legislation, but it was so complicated you wondered what Sen. Ligon’s rationale for the bill was in the first place.  But it is clear what his intention was.  He wants Georgia to dump the common core.  But his bill set in motion an everlasting series of committees and public hearings that in the end leave you gasping for breath.

Not Just in Georgia

The Common Core State Standards is not an issue that is being debated just in Georgia.  Here are links to a few headlines to give you an idea of the consequences of the Common Core.

What do you think about the common core?  Do you think Georgia should opt out or stay with the common core?

Is the Common Standards Movement Unraveling?

Latest Story

Mercedes Schneider, on her EduBlog, wrote several articles documenting a growing movement against the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by describing legislative action, and citizen protests in 23 states. I’ve used her observations to create a map locating these events across the U.S.  I’ve also included on the map the states that did not endorse the CCSS at all.

The Race to the Top (RT3) competition was the carrot the U.S. Department of Education used to entice states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. If a state choose not to adopt the common core, then there was a high likelihood their RT3 proposal would suffer the consequences. (The ED department used the same technique to make sure states use student test scores in teacher evaluations).

The context for the map and the sign that there a sweeping national backlash against the CCSS is described here by Mercedes Schneider when she says:

CCSS was not democratically vetted prior to 45 governors and state superintendents (and let us not forget the District of Columbia) signing to accept it.

No legislative vote was required for CCSS acceptance as far as President Obama and US Secretary of Education Duncan were concerned. Just two signatures sealed the deal for a state to agree to the inflexible (and at the time of signing, possibly unfinished) CCSS as part of Race to the Top (RTTT).

In order to coerce states into agreeing to this “state-led initiative,” the federal government had to become the incentive-dangling “hub.” Thus, “state led” means “led right into RTTT agreement with the USDOE.” (Schneider, M. Common Core Unrest in 22 States.  Retrieved January 5, 2014, from http://deutsch29.wordpress.com)

The backlash is coming from all fronts, the right, left and the middle. You can click on the red (rescinded the Common Core), yellow (Common Core protest activity) or blue (no-Common Core states) markers to read a brief written by Schneider on her blog. In only two cases, has a state officially changed its mind from adopt to reject the standards. But as you will see there is legislative action many of the blank color states.

The research that I’ve reported on this blog the value and effects of standards does not bode well for the supporters of national standards, or even state standards. Standards block learning much like a brick wall. The use of standards imposes unsupported litany of what teachers are required to teach with little to no input locally.

The standards-based accountability system of schooling treats students as androids who come to school to mechanically learn to follow a path established by adults, many of whom have no idea what it is like in a 3rd, 8th, or 12th grade classroom.  Nor do these adults have any idea about the aspirations, creativity, and inventiveness of students in these grades.  Yet, these policy makers have established a system of education that is a meticulous set of performance statements that all students should learn in mathematics, English language arts (The Common Core State Standards), and science (The Next Generation Science Standards).

Schooling should help open minds, not close them. Requiring students to learn content that may or may not be important to them is not based on science, its mere opinion.  More than that, much of the pedagogy that is used directs students to master content in preparation for a test.

Mercedes Schneider’s analysis suggests a possible unraveling of the common standards movement.  Explore the unraveling in the map in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Mapping Common Core State Standards Unrest (data based on Mercedes Schneider's EduBlog.
Figure 1. Mapping Common Core State Standards Unrest (data based on Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog.

Defunding the Common Core: Back to the Future

Charles Grassley, the Republican Senator from Iowa, has begun the process of removing funding from the Federal Budget that would be used by districts to carry out the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards have raised the ire of not only Republicans and right leaning groups such as the Heartland Institute, but also left leaning bloggers and educators and researchers who question the relationship between high-stakes testing and national standards.  Anthony Cody, over on Living in Dialogue on Education Week has researched and critiqued the use of the Common Core in our schools.  Indeed, the Michigan House of Representatives approved a budget that would prohibit the use of any state funds to implement the Common Core or the Smarter Balanced Assessments which are tied to the Common Core.

I want to focus on Senator Grassley’s initiative to defund the Common Core State Standards, and compare this effort to the defunding of National Science Foundation science projects in the 1970s.  The effort to defund the Common Core is a “back to the future” moment for me, as it feels like I am being sent back to the 1970s when Congress defunded NSF science education programs, resulting in serious reprimands, and fundamental changes in the way NSF developed curriculum.

The underlying reasons for each defunding actions are similar, and it is interesting to note how some things haven’t changed.  Senator Grassley wrote a letter on April 26 to Tom Harkin and Jerry Moran, ranking members of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Senate Appropriations Committee.  The gist of his proposal as stated in his letter to Harkin and Moran is to “restore state decision-making and accountability with respect to state academic content standards.”   In particular, Grassley does not want funds used by the Department of Education to develop, carry out or evaluate content standards, to adopt multi-state (read Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards) standards, or to enforce any provision of the ESEA Flexibility waivers that states are seeking in exchange for more flexibility in carrying out No Child Left Behind.   Harkin, a Democrat responded and said he supports the common core initiative.

What’s behind the effort to defund the Common Core?  And what caused the Congress to defund and cut funding for NSF science education programing in the 1970’s?  We’ll see that emotions, attitudes, and family values form the fundamental angst that led to actions 40 years ago, and now.

Please read on…

Back to the Future

Unlike the Common Core State Standards, most NSF science programs were developed at American universities or educational development centers, and enlisted the work of scientists, science education professors and K-12 science teachers.  For example, the first NSF program, PSSC Physics was developed at MIT in the late 1950’s.  Other universities wrote grants to fund programs in elementary, middle and high school science over the next three decades.  NSF proposals are peer-reviewed, unlike any of the work done to develop the Common Core or the Next Generation Science Standards.   NSF projects were field-tested in schools across the country, and then revised based on the feedback received through test centers.  For a brief history of the NSF, please follow this link.

The Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards have not been field-tested, although they have been available for online review.

The NSF spent about $1.6 billion on science and mathematics education from 1958 – 1978.  Part of this funding was used to develop curriculum project materials (59 projects were developed) in the amount of $189 million or 12% of the full education budget.  Most of this was spent on developing the materials, but $82 million was used to implement the projects.  (Disclaimer: I received an NSF Academic Year Institute Fellowship to attend The Ohio State University in 1966, and was a writer for two NSF curriculum projects at Florida State University (ISCS and ISIS), directed the ISIS NSF Test Center at Georgia State University (GSU), and received grants from the NSF while at GSU).

In contrast, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $4 billion in Race to the Top Funds (RTT) to between 2010 -2012, but they mandated that states must adopt the Common Core to be considered for RTT funding.

ISIS.  From 1974 – 1977, I was writer and test-center director (in the Atlanta area) for the NSF curriculum project at Florida State University called the Individualized Science Instructional System (ISIS). The goal of the project was to develop and field-test about 100 science mini-courses for grades 9 – 12.  Professor Emeritus George Dawson of Florida State University assembled the entire collection of ISIS materials, including the pre-publication versions, NSF proposal details, and all related research papers ascribed to the ISIS program.  The idea was to develop a large number of  mini-courses that could be used by school districts that they could use to assemble their own curriculum.  Mini-course titles included, Kitchen Chemistry, Let’s Eat, The Physics of Sport, Tomorrows Weather, Salt of the Earth, Cells and Cancer, Birth and Growth, Human Reproduction.  When we field tested Birth and Growth, and Human Reproduction in high school biology classes, a number of parents complained, and insisted that their children not be exposed to these mini-courses.

During the first two years of the ISIS project, more than thirty mini-courses were developed and field tested in centers around the country, including Atlanta.  But in 1977, the ISIS Project Director, Dr. Ernest Burkman of FSU, was informed that the ISIS project funding would be reduced, and that no funds could be used to prepare teachers and districts to carry out ISIS.  Why did this happen?

The MACOS Controversy.  Enter Man: A Course of Study (MACOS), or better known to the education community as “The MACOS Controversy.”  Man: A Course of Study is an elementary science and social studies curriculum project funded by NSF and developed the Educational Development Center (EDC), Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Jerome Bruner took leave from Harvard to lead this fifth grade curriculum which examined the commonalities between human behavior and that of several animal species, and culminated with a series of short films documenting the lives of the Netsilik Eskimo people.

MACOS, between 1963 – 1975 received about $7.1 million to develop, carry out and test  the MACOS curriculum.    MACOS, like ISIS, developed curriculum materials (follow this link to an online archive of MACOS that is free for noncommercial use) that departed from the usual NSF curriculum project which consisted of a text-book, laboratory activities (often integrated in the text), and hands-on teaching materials specific to the project.  ISIS not only developed a curriculum with specialized hands-on materials, but its goal was to produce 100 mini-texts.  MACOS did not have a text-book, instead it created a curriculum that consisted of a variety of media, including films, and required extensive teaching preparation because of the course’s teaching strategies, and potential of the subject.

When MACOS went looking for a publisher, 43 American publishers indicated interest, but none of them was willing to sign a contract that had such implementation requirements.  As a result, the developer, EDC, in collaboration with NSF, agreed to lower the royalty rate to attract publishers.  Curriculum Development Associates of DC signed up, and began publishing the curriculum in 1970.   Forty-seven states and over 1,700 school districts used the MACOS program.  However, MACOS, as we will see, was a controversial curriculum project.

Publishers were aware that the content and pedagogy of the MACOS program was controversial, so it should have been no surprise that conservative politicians would discover MACOS, and go berserk.  Here is a brief overview  the MACOS curriculum written by Peter B. Dow, the director of the project, as cited in Karen Wiley’s 1976 research report The NSF Science Education Controversy: Issues, Events and Decisions.

Summary of the intent of the MACOS Project
Summary of the intent of the MACOS Project

The eventual defunding of MACOS and cutting of funds for other projects, including ISIS, had its origins in Phoenix, Arizona, the home of Congressman John Conlan.  Some parents in Phoenix were upset that their schools were going to implement MACOS, and as a result Conlan’s staff investigated MACOS, which resulted in Conlan moving in Congress that:

No funds authorized shall be available directly or indirectly for further development or implementation of “Man: A Course of Study,” MACOS.  Karen Wiley reported that Conlan raised specific complaints against MACOS, including:

  1. The content of the course is unfit for American children; the course advocates un-American values.
  2. The instructional methods of the course are manipulative.
  3. The implementation activities of the developer (EDC) go beyond the Congressional mandate; they constitute unfair competition with private publishers (recall that 47 publishers turned EDC down); and they exert undue influence on local decision makers (this is an odd one, because local schools make the final decision on the selection of curriculum and texts).

Conlan’s investigation expanded from MACOS to all of NSF’s curriculum development projects.  As Wiley wrote in her research report, the controversy expanded to professional societies and the media.

If you have the time, the video, Through These Eyes looks back at the MACOS project, and explores the social and educational implications of the controversy that was critical of national curriculum projects, especially MACOS which not only suggested that “man” was an animal, but that studying cultures different from our own could be an important teaching tool of discovery and experimentation.  This idea did not bode well with conservatives.

 

Through These Eyes looks back at the high stakes of this controversial curriculum. Decades later, as American influence continues to affect cultures worldwide, the story of MACOS resonates strongly.  The implications for today’s conservative agenda is relevant.

In the case of the Common Core State Standards, there is great similarity with MACOS.  The Common Core has been adopted by most states (47) and it is in the process of being implemented in many states.  But, long before Sen. Grassley wrote his “Common Core” letter, there was discontent with the Common Core by left and right leaning organizations and people.

MACOS content also raised the shackles of conservatives who thought that the curriculum was too progressive, and in their mind did not reflect the values of American families.  In their text, The Art of Teaching Science, the authors discussed the MACOS controversy, and wrote this:

Indeed, conservatives viewed progressive schools as ‘anti-intellectual playhouses’ and ‘crime breeders,’ run by a ‘liberal establishment.”  The MACOS curriculum was seen as a progressive Trojan horse.   Conlan’s staff investigated complaints and eventually, Conlan took steps to stop appropriations for MACOS “on the grounds of its ‘abhorrent, repugnant, vulgar, morally sick content.”   Nelkin claims that the Council for Basic Education objected to MACOS for its emphasis on cultural relativism, and its lack of emphasis on skills and facts. Even liberal congressmen got on the anti-MACOS bandwagon because of their desire to limit the executive bureaucracies, such as NSF, and for “their resentment of scientists, who often tended to disdain congressional politics; and above all, the concern with secrecy and confidentiality that followed the Watergate affair.”

The MACOS controversy brought the issue of censorship into the public arena. However, to avoid the claim of censorship, which probably would not have been acceptable to many in Congress, Conlan focused on the federal government’s role in implementing MACOS, as well as all other NSF funded curriculum projects. One issue that surfaced was “the marketing issue – the concern that the NSF used taxpayers’ money to interfere with private enterprise.”Along with this was the place that conservative writers such as James Kilpatrick, who attacked NSF science programs as “an ominous echo of the Soviet Union’s promulgation of official scientific theory.” The temper of the times was quite clear: “resentment of the ‘elitism’ of science reinforced concern that NSF was naïvely promulgating the liberal values of the scientific community to a reluctant public.” The result: on April 9, 1975, the Congress terminated funds for MACOS, and further support of science curriculum projects was suspended, and the entire NSF educational program came under review.

At the core of MACOS was The Netsilik Film Series, an anthropology program from the National Film Board that featured a year in the life of an Inuit family, and its relationship with the outside world.  It was the graphic images of the Netsilik people who clashed with the values of some individuals, such as in Phoenix, Arizona.

Peter Dow, Director of MACOS, explored the implications of MACOS in a paper written many years ago.  Dow points out that as Pablo Freire wrote that there is no such thing as a neutral educational process.  For Freire, education either leads the student to conform with the present system, or it becomes “the practice of freedom” which means that teaching will focus on creativity and discovery.  This fundamental concept is at odds with the conservative world view that has been discussed on this blog.  It runs counter to the authoritarian mode of living and education.

Finally, Dow comments made more than 40 years ago are relevant to the present “faux reform” that is being forced on schools today.  He said this about educational reform:

There is clearly a conflict between the pedagogy Freire espouses and curriculum building on a national scale if curriculum decisions continue to be made by state adoption boards to be imposed with no recourse on a powerless population of students and teachers.

Until curriculum decisions rest where they belong, in the hands of the users, curriculum reform movements will continue to be used as instruments of oppression. A liberating education must perforce originate from the aspirations of the participants.

Lastly, curriculum makers must become increasingly sensitive to the social and political implications of curriculum building. In designing curricula, we cannot escape the fact that we make choices and impose values on the constituency of students and teachers we serve. If no schooling is neutral, and we believe in freedom of choice, then we must increase curriculum options and be explicit about the social goals of our curriculum materials. And in our continuing search to understand the central purposes of curriculum, we would do well to have our ears tuned to the increasingly liberated voices of the young, and to keep the writings of Bruner, Erikson, and Freire close at hand. (“Man: A Course of Study” in Retrospect: A Primer for Curriculum in the 70’s, Peter B. Dow Theory into Practice , Vol. 10, No. 3, A Regeneration of the Humanities (Jun., 1971), pp. 168-177)

 Nowadays

There is a groundswell to defund efforts to carry out the Common Core State Standards.  The defunding efforts have gained traction in states dominated by Republican legislatures, such as Alabama, Texas and Michigan.  The present effort is a bit of a dilemma for progressives (like myself) in that we see ourselves in agreement with our conservative colleagues.  I‘ve written extensively on this blog that standards actually impede learning, and are like brick walls, preventing real learning from happening.  My concern has more to do with the implication of having single sets of content standards that people actually believe are important to the welfare of schooling.  There is little evidence to support the idea that standards, whether rigorous or not, make any difference in student learning.

Opposition to the standards comes from the left and the right.  If the opposition comes from the left, its typically a resistance to a one-size-fits all conception of curriculum, and a rejection of a single set of standards for all children and youth, and evidence that standards will do little to improve education, especially for children living in poverty.  If the opposition comes from the right, the right to choose comes to the surface.  Folks on the right tend to think that élite scientists or mathematicians are trying to impose an ideology that rejects conservative values. To conservatives, teaching and learning should focus on basic facts (of science, for example), and we should test students every year to make sure that they are getting the facts straight.

Grassley’s letter, and the legislative actions around the country to defund the common core show how dysfunctional our elected officials are in matters of educational reform. Instead of facilitating educational reform, Federal and state government policy has resulted in partisan bickering, and the serious impediment to improving life for students and their teachers.

In the 1970s, the Congress saw fit to dissolve a very creative and thought-provoking curriculum (MACOS).  Abandoning the Common Core might be the right decision, but what are we left to when Congress and state legislatures impose their values on local school districts, who really have the legal right and responsibility to education our children and youth.

What do you think about the movement to defund the Common Core?  Do you think this is a good idea?  Tell us what you think.

 

 

The Common Core, Lightning Rod or Reform?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics and English language arts are set to be implemented in many states across the country next year.  The CCSS will be the content basis for national computerized tests being developed by two consortia, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessments.  On the heels of these standards and assessment movements is the roll out of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) next year.

The Common Core State Standards appears to be more of a lightning rod for dissent than it is a reform initiative for public education.

The CCSS, PARCC, Smarter, and NGSS have created an atmosphere in the U.S. that is playing out in state legislatures, departments of education, corporations, school districts, and blogs.  Opinions on these “reforms” span the political spectrum from the right-wing to to the left-wing.  The blogosphere is full of stories and articles about the Common Core and national assessments.  I’ve sampled a few here to show how opinions range from the extreme right to the far left.

Naïve Conceptions

On Valerie Strauss’s blog, principal Carol Burris, an author of a book about how to help schools meet the goals of the Common Core, admits now that she was naïve.   She now realizes that standardized tests control teaching and learning.  Burris, who thought the common core would be student-centered, now believes that common core in the end will punish students and teachers, and not be a tool for school improvement.  Using student tests to evaluate schools, and teachers does not promote the kind of student-centered learning that she thinks should be the center of school reform.  She includes several anecdotes of teachers who work in a “data-driven” environment and spend enormous time simply doing “test-prep.”

She talks about Michael Fullan, a well known international school reform advocate.  She writes that Fullan believes that present reform is led by the “wrong drivers of change,” individual accountability of teachers, which are linked to test scores.  Fullan suggests that standards and assessment needs to be replaced with the emphasis on curriculum and instruction.

I am not sure this will happen.

Teacher Education

Arizona’s House HB 2563, a general education bill about Arizona’s public education system, requires that teacher education programs be based on the common core, and other content standards.  But the real issue is this one.  The nation is being set up to use common standards to develop common national tests (PARCC and Smarter).  Every state that adopts the common standards will likely adopt either of the common assessment tests.  Student test scores will be used as an indicator of teacher effectiveness, and as a result many states have insisted that part of a teacher’s evaluation be based on the progress of students on standardized tests.  All Race to the Top winners had to include that stipulation in their proposal to be eligible for funding.  Now, there is a move to hold teacher preparation institutions accountable in the same manner.   Graduates of teacher preparation institutions will be followed into teaching, and their K-12 student test scores will be used to evaluate their college teacher preparation.

This is a dangerous idea.  In fact, most of the thinking around using test scores to measure student learning, or to rate teachers are dangerous ideas.  They are based on a crude understanding of behavioral psychology.  Most educational researchers have rocketed past this form of psychology, and indeed, have invented a new science, “the learning sciences.”  The learning sciences is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand human learning.  It includes fields such as cognitive science, computer science, educational psychology, anthropology, and applied linguistics.

Teacher education is a complex field of study, and using simple techniques as content tests given to school age students to look back and evaluate the preparation programs of teachers disregards the progress that has been made in how humans learn.

Progressive and Student-Centered Learning?

There are many educators who believe that the Common Core movement, along with the Next Generation Science Standards are moving schools further away from progressive and a more personalized approach to education.  On the Innovative Education Blog, Lisa Nielsen writes that the Common Core is a back-to-basics approach, and advances the idea that all kids of the same age should learn the same content.  Examine the Common Core Standards in Mathematics and English/Language Arts, or the Next Generation Science Standards, and you will find standards related to age.

Standards are like brick walls, and tend to impede communication between teachers and students, and deny the kind of creative thinking that teachers wish to bring to the classroom.  Unfortunately, research reported on this blog suggests that standards have not been effective in promoting learning, and present barriers to teaching and learning.

Withdrawal Legislation

According to newspaper accounts, tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity, Conservatives in Action and the Georgia Republican Assembly are supporting Georgia’s SB 167.  It is an education bill that declares certain actions void ab initio (to be treated as invalid from the outset) relating to the Common Core, student records and testing.  This is an amazing bill.  Three years ago, Georgia picked up nearly $500 million from the Race to the Top program which required the state to participate in the Common Core.  Now, the Georgia legislature wants to pass a law that would not allow the Georgia Department of Education to adopt the Common Core standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC.  Here, in brief, are some parts of the law:

to prohibit state education agencies from entering into any commitments relating to the federal Race to the Top program; to require hearings and public input prior to adoption of state-wide competencies and content standards; to limit the compilation and sharing of personal student and teacher data; to prohibit the expenditure of funds for a state-wide longitudinal data system except for administrative needs and federal grant compliance; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

In essence, the Georgia legislature will require the Department of Education to renege on its commitments to the Race to the Top Program.  It also will not allow the state to adopt national standards of any content area including science, social studies, health education, and national sexuality standards.  If the bill gets through, these new regulations will be effective July 1, 2013.

In Alabama, House Bil 190, which passed and now waits for action by the Senate, seeks to overturn the state board’s 2010 adoption of the common core standards.  It will also require legislative approval for all future statewide standards passed by the board of education, and limits the sharing of students and teacher data outside the state.

Conspiracy Theories

Claims of socialist take over of education, and of communist philosophy appear to have found their way on to an Alabama blog (Education without Representation),  On this blog, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is seen as the pawn who is pushing an educational agenda that is straight out of the constitution of the Communist Party USA!  These bloggers want to reclaim “educational liberty,” On their site they have a chart entitled United State Against the Common Core State Standards.  The chart is a valuable tool for those who wish explore other conspiracy theories related to the common core.

Red Herring

Tim Furman, an educational blogger from Chicago, suggests that the common core is a red herring.  I would agree.  As he points out, how will new standards really have any impact on helping children in poverty, considering that so many “reformers” think poverty has nothing to do with literacy or learning.

Roadmap and Articles

There is a lot of activity around the country in the wake of the development of Common Core State Standards, and the forthcoming implementation in thousands of schools around the country.  Education Week has published articles on the common core that you can access here.

What do you think about the Common Core?  Should U.S. schools adopt the Common Core?