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Common Core at the Learning Store? 0

Posted on May 19, 2015 by dmayer

So I walk into the learning store to see what’s available for parents to purchase in their attempt to assuage the dreaded Common Core beast that has entered into the lives of their children, uninvited. As a teacher I had frequented the store and spent considerable time and way too much of my paycheck there. As a retired teacher, I sometimes buy games and flashcards to tutor struggling students. I have to admit it. The #2 Ticonderogas, the scented fluorescent markers, legos, scores of smiley-face stickers, laminated posters hot off the press, paints and puzzles, more legos . . . I love that store.

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I chat with the sales clerk. I want to know about how parent resources have changed since Common Core State Standards and high stakes testing have become the driving force in our public schools. I refer to Arne Duncan’s assessment of suburban moms, the very parents who frequent her store:

It turns out that many suburban and middle-class parents have issues when those reforms are extended to the schools that educate their children. This has been taken as a sign that these parents are ignorant or selfish. As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has put it, “Pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.”

I offer up some more facts about the test, and she listens patiently. “Although some parents are beginning to opt-out their children from high stakes standardized tests, others are hunkering down for the challenge believing that their children will defiantly beat the odds — as only one-third of students are predicted to pass the SBAC or PARCC,” I explain. She nods and sighs deeply.

“Parents come in and ask for books to help their kids with Common Core and the tests, and I direct them to these shelves,” she says as she gestures. She directs me to shelves of books displaying  Common Core icons on the cover. I browse the math selection.

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I expect to find booklets rich in worksheets and answer keys delineating the 108 steps required to solve a Common Core fourth grade word problem as demonstrated by this Arkansas mom.

Instead I find the same standard content from the same familiar publishers. There are no convoluted word problems with 108 steps that can just as easily be calculated in two.  Confused, I ask the sales clerk what had changed in the new booklets the store is now selling as Common Core material.

She grins sheepishly, shrugs a little, and says, “The Common Core icon on the cover.”  She timidly bites her lip and hurries away to help other customers offering no further explanation.

I get it. This store isn’t in the business of selling out kids by providing the ridiculous CCSS resources that make a mockery of learning. They aren’t betraying families with children who need a little boost to learn math. On the other hand, it’s deceptive to market math materials as Common Core relevant when clearly they are not. It must confuse parents who are trying to figure out what all the fuss is about.  They miss the opportunity to find out just how convoluted Common Core math really is.

Immediately, I see the predicament the store had been forced into by an education system that no longer makes sense. Selling education materials should not present a moral dilemma to shop keepers promoting the joy of learning. UGH!

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John Oliver and PAA on Standardized Testing 0

Posted on May 05, 2015 by dmayer

For the record, John Oliver must be recognized for doing the reporting that seems to elude mainstream media. He nails standardized testing and the nasty profiteers that proliferate a horrible hoax on the American public at the expense of our children. The report begins with pep rallies being staged to celebrate the taking of the tests.

I cringe to think that at some time in the near future a video of me circa 1991, surrounded by my Indianapolis Public Schools colleagues leading a cheer for the ISTEP, will emerge.  It was a time before standardized tests determined the future lives of children, teachers, and schools — a time when a test was just a test — no high stakes. In those days, teachers sought to gain favor with their principals, and principals with administration, by championing THE TEST. We were all naive.

Nearly 25 years later, as tests have evolved into instruments used to facilitate student data collection, teacher evaluation, and school quality, we know the harm these tests can do. When John Oliver exposes the standardized test deception on an HBO comedy show, it’s time to say, “Enough is enough! We’re not going to give/take these stupid test anymore.!”

We can no longer use naiveté an excuse.

My friend — also a teacher, Mercedes Schneider, who blogs prolifically at Deutsch 29, recently posed this question: Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing?  She provides contexts for the bigger picture that encompasses high stakes standardized testing:

As I write this post, I have in front of me my permanent education record from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is by way of an unusual set of circumstances that I have this file. The short of it is that the records clerk at the first high school I taught at gave it to me in 1992.

It includes my standardized test scores for grades K, 1, and 4-8.

Yes. I took standardized tests beginning in kindergarten. My first was the Metropolitan Readiness Test, Form B (1973). It assessed my readiness for first grade, in six areas: word meaning, listening, matching, alphabet, numbers, and copying.

My teacher used it to help determine whether I should advance to first grade.

The test was not misused to grade my teacher or school.

None of the other six tests were used to grade my teachers or my school. They were used for diagnostic purposes related to my education.

My tests were not used to make me feel bad about myself by way of expected failure rates publicized in the media. My test results were not manipulated by those who possessed the political power to set any cut scores. There were no cut scores. There was no media hype surrounding my testing. There was no need for my parents to be concerned about my emotional well being due to any punitive consequences that might befall me. I was not worried that my scores could be used to fire my teachers or close my school.

There was no need for my parents to consider opting me out of testing.

Those days do not reflect the testing-pressure-cooker reality of 2015.

Coincidentally, at the same time John Oliver presented his bittersweet expose and Mercedes wrote her fantastic blog post, Parents Across America published its position paper against Common Core, SBAC, and PARCC complete with Common Core Basics and annotated references. Add it to your arsenal of resources to opt your child out of high stakes standardized tests.

While editors at the Oregonian continue to serve up platitudes to its readers, a comedian invites us to digest the evidence surrounding high stakes standardized testing.

President George W. Bush in just his third day in office announced his No Child Left Behind program. It passed Congress with bipartisan support because of course it did. Voting against No Child Left Behind is like voting against No Puppy Left Unsnuggled.

It’s a false conundrum. Enjoy.

Common Core Resolution to PPS Board 0

Posted on April 18, 2014 by dmayer

Portland Public School board member Steve Buel presented a resolution citing concerns with the implementation of Common Core $tate $tandards at Wednesday night’s meeting. He called for a three-year moratorium much to the chagrin of presiding member Pam Knowles, but to the delight of a sizable contingent of the audience of parent, teachers, and students. After a verbal skirmish over the rules, Steve was permitted to read the resolution.

The resolution is the result of hundreds of hours of research by concerned members of the community who have noticed the effects of Common Core in New York and Kentucky. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools and Portland Association of Teachers met to flesh out the details of the resolution. Steve Buel and Aaron Smirl drafted the final version presented to the board. They welcome any and all concerned about the implementation of Common Core to use our resolution as a model to call for a moratorium. The text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION ON COMMON CORE AND PPS (April 16, 2014)

Whereas, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and promoted by two private membership organizations (The National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers), and by other organizations none of whom are connected with Portland Public Schools, and these organizations received millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop CCSS for the benefit of corporations; and

Whereas, the corporate profit motives that drive the CCSS are often in direct conflict with good education and can work to the detriment of the children of Portland Public Schools; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and

Whereas, in our own state CCSS were adopted without open and transparent public scrutiny, and with minimal input by Oregon educators; and

Whereas, the implementation of CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing is a substantial financial burden on Portland Public Schools and Portland’s taxpayers; and

Whereas, CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college, career or citizenship; and

Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and

Whereas, high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and emphasizes teaching to the test at the expense of other important educational topics and learning experiences; and

Whereas, there are serious questions about the validity of standardized testing to inform instruction, evaluate teachers or other educators, and measure the value of a specific school’s educational quality; and

Whereas, data collected under high-stakes testing has been shown to be vulnerable to misuse; and

Whereas,  the purpose of education is not solely preparation for college and career, but to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable as citizens of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives; and

Whereas, top down imposition of the CCSS adversely impacts students of highest need,  underserved students, emerging multilingual students, and special education students; and

Whereas, curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom and district professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and

Whereas, significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying our curricula to the CCSS takes precious resources away from meeting the actual needs of our students; and

Whereas, the Portland School Board and its Superintendent have a responsibility to make decisions which are in the best interests of its students

Be it therefore resolved PPS educators shall use the Common Core State Standards as only one factor among many in educating PPS students and put no more emphasis on these standards than other important educational factors, not listed in the standards, in an effort to make sure PPS students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Be it resolved district administrators and teachers take into account educational equity in implementing CCSS. This includes, but it not limited to, making sure students in all schools have nearly equal access to the following:

  • A broad range of educational offerings.
  • Access to courses outside of tested subjects which are both considered electives and/or part of a traditional education.
  • Appropriate testing practices which take into account the background of students including underserved students, special education students, ESL students, and poverty factors.
  • Equal testing support at each school where necessary.
  • Field trips, recreational activities, educational projects and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Parent communication regarding testing.
  • Computer access throughout the year.

Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents.

Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials.

Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.

Be it resolved CCSS shall not unnecessarily burden teachers with the following:

  • Inordinate amounts of professional development or training to implement the CCSS, both in amount of time spent and in overemphasizing CCSS professional development instead of other forms of professional development or classroom instruction.
  • Mandated use of CCSS curricular materials.
  • CCSS use by educators as a part of teacher evaluation or plans of assistance.
  • Use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing as part of teacher evaluations unless specifically mandated by state law.
  • Time spent on identifying CCSS use in teacher’s lessons.
  • Required practice testing for district-wide testing.

Be it resolved PPS administration shall convene a committee to assess the validity of CCSS and their use within PPS. This committee will include strong representation from the PAT as well as PPS parents, students and community members. This committee will review and report on the following questions:

  • Are there standards which we believe are incorrect for PPS students?
  • How much of the time spent on teaching to the CCSS could be better spent on other educational endeavors and what guidelines should be developed?
  • How much instructional time should be dedicated to intervention programs and test preparation classes for students who do not meet the CCSS requirements on the SBAC?
  • Are there standards which are developmentally inappropriate?
  • Are there CCSS related decisions which are not helping the education of PPS students?
  • What testing procedures or protocol might create a validity problem for SBAC testing?
  • Is the administration promoting CCSS in a realistic manner, making claims which are backed by peer-reviewed research and experience in other states or locales?
  • What steps should PPS take in order to correct any validity problems?
  • What is the effect of high-stakes testing on children and what can be done to minimize any negative impacts?
  • Are restrictions on children brought about by their scores, or their school’s overall scores on high-stakes testing appropriate? (i.e. missed electives, missed recess, loss of extra-curricular activities)

Be it resolved PPS make a concerted effort to inform parents concerning PPS’s use of CCSS as well as their right to opt out of testing.

Be it resolved inordinate pressure to perform on CCSS testing shall not be placed upon students, teachers or administrators.

Be it resolved pedagogy responding to CCSS shall be based upon well established educational principles which do not include an overemphasis on scripted curriculum, one type of approach to educational problems such close reading or non-fiction, wholesale diminishment of literature, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, inordinate importance placed on testing, or the narrowing of curriculum.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position which opposes state and federal mandates which require PPS to use testing to label schools, personnel, or students based on test scores, including the labeling of focus/priority schools and subsequent consequences for these schools.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position that the state should suspend the implementation of Common Core for a period of at least three years and until this untested mandate has received adequate research and been field-tested.

 

Indiana stands against the Common Core 0

Posted on March 07, 2013 by dmayer

Indiana is being lambasted with Common Core commercials produced by the anti-public education group Stand for Children. Why? Hoosiers are wise to state politicians who are privatizing their public schools. The people need more convincing that national standards are a good thing. Enter Stand for Children to get the job done. Thirty-second spots are airing across the state to convince parents, teachers, and community members that Common Core State Standards are essential to providing students with an adequate education. Will indiana residents be able to influence legislators to stop the Common Core?

For years Indiana has had strong state standards supported by Frameworks that assist teachers in delivering the curriculum. To replace decades of work completed by the people of the state with national Common Core standards seems ridiculous to some.

Here are arguments from Indiana educators and parents reduced t “Myths” by Stand for Children. Many of these arguments can be made by any of the 45 states that have signed on to implement the Common Core. Just insert the name of your state for Indiana. Regardless of Stand’s “facts,” the point may be argues that Common Core legislation was ramrodded through state legislatures without adequate discussion or debate, and without public approval.

MYTH 1: COMMON CORE IS AN EFFORT OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO NATIONALIZE EDUCATION AND FORCE STATES TO TEACH ALL STUDENTS THE SAME WAY.
Fact: Common Core is a state-led initiative by governors, state superintendents, and nonprofit agencies to modernize education standards. It is research-based and molded with more than 10,000 comments from the public. The Indiana State Board of Education, to which the General Assembly has given the task of adopting standards, voluntarily adopted the Common Core in 2010. Indiana received no incentives from the federal government for taking this action.

MYTH 2: INDIANA’S STANDARDS WERE JUDGED SUPERIOR TO COMMON CORE, “EVEN BY COMMON CORE SUPPORTERS.”
Fact: While Indiana’s standards are high compared to many other states, children are still leaving school unprepared for what lies ahead. In addition to the students who do not graduate from high school or choose not to attend college, one-third of Indiana students who do attend college require remediation in math or English.The Fordham Institute, one of the organizations often cited praising Indiana’s standards even said some of the Common Core shifts “would benefit Indiana’s already-strong standards,” and the Common Core State Standards are quality standards for the nation.

MYTH 3: STATES MAY NOT ADJUST THE NEW COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS TO MEET THEIR STATE-LEVEL NEEDS.
Fact: Common Core allows states to add standards on top of the Common Core. This is known as the “15% Rule”, due to the amount of standards that can be added. Additionally, Indiana law allows Home Rule, which means school corporations can adopt standards above the state minimum.

MYTH 4: COMMON CORE STANDARDS REPRESENT A NATIONAL CURRICULUM AND IMPLEMENTING 100% OF COMMON CORE MEANS THAT THE STANDARDS TELL TEACHERS PRECISELY HOW THEY MUST TEACH.
Fact: Standards, by definition, are not a curriculum. Common Core defines the “what” rather than the “how” of teaching. Common Core is a set of standards that outline what students should know at a particular grade level in order to be on track to mastering skills and content to be prepared for college and beyond. Curriculum – the map, schedule, and method for teaching standards – will be a decision left up to school corporations and teachers to construct.

MYTH 5: REFERRING TO THE COMMON CORE AS “NATIONAL STANDARDS” IS THE MOST ACCURATE WAY TO DESCRIBE THEM.
Fact: Neither Congress nor the U.S. Department of Education was involved in the development of Common Core, nor have they mandated Common Core adoption. Not all states have chosen to participate. In fact, the Common Core are nationally aligned state standards because they were developed in collaboration between state and education leaders across the country.

MYTH 6: HOOSIER TAXPAYERS WILL END UP PAYING MORE FOR TECHNOLOGY AND CURRICULUM UPDATES UNDER COMMON CORE THAN THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO UNDER THE INDIANA STANDARDS.
Fact: Indiana currently spends $93.9 million annually on standards-related costs. And the costs of Common Core implementation have varied greatly. At least one estimate said a Common Core transition can save Indiana $23 million. Additionally, Indiana is in a better place than most states because the state allowed districts to make technology investments with textbook funds starting in 2009. (source) This means most – if not all – of Common Core implementation costs can be covered by existing spending.

MYTH 7: “UNDER THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, STUDENTS MAY GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL READING AT A 7TH GRADE LEVEL.”
Fact: The fact is that currently there are too many students graduating high school reading at a 7th grade level and even lower. This is a major reason why the Common Core were established in the first place. Common Core standards push students to read at even higher levels earlier in their school careers. For example, the current standard for a 9th grade reading level will become the new standard for a 7th grade reading level under full implementation of the Common Core.

MYTH 8: “UNDER THE COMMON CORE, ‘COLLEGE READINESS’ MEANS PREPARATION FOR A SELECTIVE TWO-YEAR COLLEGE, NOT A UNIVERSITY.”
Fact: An education rooted in the Common Core standards would actually prepare students to enter a university setting having spent the last 12 years building up to the complexity of material they will encounter at higher levels of education. Nowhere in the Common Core initiative or research do the authors define “college readiness” as readiness for a “two-year college” instead of a university.

MYTH 9: INDIANA ONLY CHOSE TO ADOPT COMMON CORE BECAUSE THEY WANTED FEDERAL RACE TO THE TOP (RTTT) STIMULUS FUNDS OR WERE INCENTIVIZED BY THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE A NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (NCLB) WAIVER.
Fact: Indiana did not adopt Common Core when it applied for the first round of RTTT funds, and the state did not apply for the second round. Indiana adopted the Common Core on its own terms in August 2010. (source) Indiana also adopted the new standards one year before the NCLB waiver was even an option for states.

MYTH 10: 70% OF THE TEXTS READ IN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ARTS CLASSES MUST BE INFORMATION-TEXT IN 12TH GRADE, WHICH PREVENTS STUDENTS FROM LEARNING CULTURE THROUGH HIGH QUALITY LITERATURE.
Fact: Common Core standards call for 70% of all texts (not 70% of English Language Arts texts) read in 12th grade to be nonfiction, which includes content area texts, such as science and history. (source) This was done to support literacy instruction in other content areas and underscore the role that all teachers must play in literacy efforts. (source) This will help ensure students are graduating high school adequately prepared to read rigorous college and career-level material, a majority of which are informational texts.

MYTH 11: THE COMMON CORE WILL BE ADOPTED IN PLACE OF ALL INDIANA ACADEMIC STANDARDS IN ALL SUBJECT AREAS.
Fact: The Common Core standards provide new standards for English Language Arts and math only, not social studies, science and technical subjects. Nor will these other subjects be evaluated on the new PARCC assessment test. Current Indiana Academic Standards will be used for these subjects.