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Topic: Eight problems with Common Core Standards
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Eight problems with Common Core Standards
Posted: Aug 19, 2012 6:19 PM
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From The Washington Post / The Answer Sheet by
Valerie Strauss, Monday, August 13, 2012. See
Eight problems with Common Core Standards

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by Marion Brady, veteran
teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and
author. [see ]
By Marion Brady

E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s book, "Cultural Literacy: What
Every American Needs to Know," was published
March 1, 1987.

So it was probably in March of that year when,
sitting at a dining room table in an apartment on
Manhattan's Upper East Side, my host - a
publishing executive, friend, and fellow West
Virginian - said he'd just bought the book. He
hadn't read it yet, but wondered how Hirsch's
list of 5,000 things he thought every American
should know differed from a list we Appalachians
might write.

I don't remember what I said, but it was probably
some version of what I've long taken for granted:
Most people think that whatever they and the
people they like happen to know, everybody else
should be required to know.

In education, of course, what it's assumed that
everybody should be required to know is called
"the core." Responsibility for teaching the core
is divvied up between teachers of math, science,
language arts, and social studies.

Variously motivated corporate interests, arguing
that the core was being sloppily taught,
organized a behind-the-scenes campaign to
super-standardize it. They named their handiwork
the Common Core State Standards to hide the fact
that it was driven by policymakers in Washington
D.C., who have thus far shoved it into every
state except Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas,
and Virginia. [See ]

This was done with no public dialogue, no
feedback from experienced educators, no research,
no pilot or experimental programs - no evidence
at all that a floor-length list created by
unnamed people attempting to standardize what's
taught is a good idea.

It's a bad idea. Ignore the fact that specific
Common Core State Standards will open up enough
cans of worms to keep subject-matter specialists
arguing among themselves forever. Consider
instead the merit of Standards from a general

One: Standards shouldn't be attached to school
subjects, but to the qualities of mind it's hoped
the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects
are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene
torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons,
welders, surveyors - and teachers - should be
held accountable for the quality of what they
produce, not how they produce it.

Two: The world changes. The future is
indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a
dynamic world may be comfortable, even
comforting, but it's a Titanic-deck-chair

Three: The Common Core Standards assume that what
kids need to know is covered by one or another of
the traditional core subjects. In fact, the
unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and
beyond those familiar fields of study is vast,
expands by the hour, and will go in directions no
one can predict.

Four: So much orchestrated attention is being
showered on the Common Core Standards, the main
reason for poor student performance is being
ignored-a level of childhood poverty the
consequences of which no amount of schooling can
effectively counter.

Five: The Common Core kills innovation. When it's
the only game in town, it's the only game in town.

Six: The Common Core Standards are a set-up for
national standardized tests, tests that can't
evaluate complex thought, can't avoid cultural
bias, can't measure non-verbal learning, can't
predict anything of consequence (and waste
boatloads of money).

Seven: The word "standards" gets an approving nod
from the public (and from most educators) because
it means "performance that meets a standard."
However, the word also means "like everybody
else," and standardizing minds is what the
Standards try to do. Common Core Standards fans
sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the
second meaning. Standardized minds are about as
far out of sync with deep-seated American values
as it's possible to get.

Eight: The Common Core Standards' stated aim -
"success in college and careers"- is at best
pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should
be exploring the potentials of humanness.

I've more beefs, but like these eight, they have
to do with the quality of education, and the
pursuit of educational quality isn't what's
driving the present education reform farce.

An illustration: As I write, my wife is in the
kitchen. She calls me for lunch. The small
television suspended under the kitchen cabinets
is tuned to CNN, and Time cover girl Michelle
Rhee is being interviewed.

"On international tests," she says, "the U.S. ranks 27th from the top."

Michelle Rhee, three-year teacher, education
reactionary, mainstream media star, fired
authoritarian head of a school system being
investigated for cheating on standardized tests,
is given a national platform to misinform. She
doesn't explain that, at the insistence of
policymakers, and unlike other countries, America
tests every kid - the mentally disabled, the
sick, the hungry, the homeless, the transient,
the troubled, those for whom English is a second
language. That done, the scores are lumped
together. She doesn't even hint that when the
scores of the disadvantaged aren't counted,
American students are at the top.

If Michelle Rhee doesn't know that, she shouldn't
be on CNN. If she knows it but fails to point it
out, she shouldn't be on CNN.

It's hard not to compare Rhee with Jennifer, a
friend of my oldest son. He wrote me recently:

ŠI asked Jenn if she was ready for school.

"I'm waiting for an email from my principal to
find out if I can get into my classroom a week

"Why a whole week?"

"To get my room ready."

She teaches second graders. I ask her why she
loves that grade. She laughs and says, "Because
they haven't learned to roll their eyes yet."

But I know it's much more than that. Her sister
was down from Ohio for Jenn's birthday, and when
she asked her what she wanted, Jenn said she
needed 18 sets of colored pencils, 18 boxes of #2
pencils, 18 boxes of crayons, construction paper,
name tags and so on - $346 dollars total.

She's been doing this for 25 years. I'm sure she
makes less than I do, but they could probably cut
her salary 25 or 30% and she'd still want to get
into her room early."

Rhee gets $50,000 a pop plus first-class travel
and accommodations for putting in an appearance
to tell her audiences what's wrong with the
Jennifers in America's schools, and what clubs
should be swung or held over their heads to scare
them into shaping up.

Future historians (if there are any) are going to
shake their heads in disbelief. They'll wonder
how, in a single generation, the world's oldest
democracy dismantled its engine - free, public,
locally controlled, democratic education.

If they dig into the secretive process that
produced the Common Core State Standards, most of
their questions will be answered
PHOTO SIDEBAR: Third grade teachers learn how to
teach common core mathematics in Tennessee. (Mark
A Large/AP)
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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