The Case for the Common Core

by Dave Schuler on May 12, 2014

The editors of the Washington Post state the case for the Common Core:

The Common Core is a set of objectives for student learning — not a mandated curriculum — that arose from governors, state education officials and others who understood that American children needed to raise their game to compete in the global economy. It is designed to move away from rote learning toward critical thinking and group effort. It assumes that parents will want to measure school and student progress. In many places, officials are saying that teachers should be evaluated in part on how well they are teaching, with good teachers being rewarded.

In this sentence they inadvertently make an argument for educational reform:

The critique about process is a straw man for the main objection: use of test results as a factor in evaluating teacher effectiveness.

I do not believe they mean “straw man”, i.e. an argument (usually that of your opponent) that you set up to be defeated easily. I think they mean “stalking horse”—a false pretext intended to conceal your true intentions.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

... May 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

I do not believe they mean “straw man”… I think they mean “stalking horse”….

Perhaps if the editors of the Washington Post had had better teachers….

... May 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

It is designed to move away from rote learning toward critical thinking and group effort.

Yes, we all know that group effort is one of the two most critical components of being an educated person.

Cstanley May 12, 2014 at 10:22 am

It would be so refreshing if someone actually would make the case for something. This article, like all arguments in our modern political culture, substitutes arguments against opponents for affirmative arguments.

Has anyone produced an explanation of how Common Core is supposed to work to produce its stated objectives? How will the program, and teachers, be evaluated? And how will we expect results any different than those that occurred under NCLB, where teachers were pressured into cheating when their students didn’t meet the testing standards and their funding was on the line?

Dave Schuler May 12, 2014 at 10:43 am

where teachers were pressured into cheating when their students didn’t meet the testing standards and their funding was on the line

That was an outcome obvious from the get-go. Look at the incentives. When you reward test results, teachers will teach to the test. What else would you expect them to do?

Cstanley May 12, 2014 at 10:49 am

Right, so are we to expect things to be different if Common Core is adopted? I’ve had a hard time sorting through all of the overheated rhetoric to figure out the plan for assessments. The best I can tell the decision is being left to the states but most of the states are planning at least in part to use test scores for teacher assessments.

Cstanley May 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

Also, when you look at the incentives under Common Core…it sure seems like the awarding of mega contracts to Pearson for the creation of both curriculum and standardized testing shows that someone viewed “teaching to the test” as a feature, not a bug.

Dave Schuler May 12, 2014 at 11:01 am

Well, obviously, if you do the same thing over and over again it will turn out right eventually.

zenpundit May 12, 2014 at 11:22 am

CCS does not “raise the game” for anywhere from a third to one-half of the states which previously used more rigorous educational standards for public schools. The fraction depends on what you think should be taught when and how you define “rigor”, but certainly, if you live in a state like Massachusetts, CCS was a large step down (conversely, in Mississippi, a step up).

Mandated testing is about making money for testing and content companies ( what Rupert Murdoch called “the $500 billion dollar market”) and creating a rigged testing system, like New York tried under Bloomberg, to randomize failure to create a plausible reason for firing expensive teachers and close schools in order to turn them over to charter school companies. That’s all it is about. If we simply wanted a valid, consistent, gold-standard, yardstick to measure educational progress we would use NAEP. The NAEP test however, cannot be gamed by governors and mayors to suit political needs of the moment the way state tests have been and the PARCC will be.

Tests with too-good to be true results (DC under Rhee, NY under Klein, Atlanta under Hall) are usually the result of statistical manipulation, cherrypicking student bodies to exclude low performers and ESL/bilingual kids (NY) or outright cheating (DC, Atlanta)

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/02/justice/georgia-cheating-scandal/

steve May 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Sure seems like CCS is really aimed at the kids we already educate pretty well, the middle class and up. It doesnt appear to do much for the kids we dont educate well, the lower middle class and poor.

I suspect it will benefit testing companies, as zen notes, but I also suspect it will let the states that had higher standards lower those and achieve higher graduation rates. For the states that CCS will mean an increase in standards, I expect waivers. Or dropping out.

Steve

... May 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Also, when you look at the incentives under Common Core…it sure seems like the awarding of mega contracts to Pearson for the creation of both curriculum and standardized testing shows that someone viewed “teaching to the test” as a feature, not a bug.

Why else do you think it got approved?

michael reynolds May 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm

If you control for poverty American schools do not perform worse than foreign schools like the oft-cited Finnish schools. The problem isn’t the schools, it’s the poverty. We have more poor people than Finland, we have more non-native speakers than Finland, and we have roughly 60 times the population of Finland stretched across an infinite variety of local situations.

So, to begin with, we’re treating the wrong disease.

What do CEO’s look for when hiring? According to one book: These five qualities are 1) passionate curiosity, 2) battled-hardened confidence, 3) team smarts, 4) a simple mind-set, and 5) fearlessness. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/business/17excerpt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

What does a testing-driven education do? Obliterate curiosity – you have to stay on-plan, no wandering. Often it destroys confidence in those who may be great students and lousy test-takers. Team-work on a test gets you suspended. Simplicity? Hah, try making the one relevant argument on an essay and doing it in 70 words rather than bloviating for the required number of pages. As for fearlessness, what possible relevance does that have in the cramped, imagination-killing atmosphere of a school?

We are still trying to turn out shut-up, sit-down, do-what-you’re-told, do it faster, people suitable for assembly line work. Forward to the 19th century!

Dave Schuler May 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm

What do CEO’s look for when hiring? According to one book: These five qualities are 1) passionate curiosity, 2) battled-hardened confidence, 3) team smarts, 4) a simple mind-set, and 5) fearlessness.

I’ve met a lot of large company CEOs over the years. I don’t believe I’ve met one that I would’ve said put those five qualities at the top of the heap. However, I would believe that most of those I’ve met were media-savvy enough to give an answer other than the truth.

That’s not to say that I don’t agree with a lot of what you wrote in your comment. I think the problem is large company CEOs.

steve May 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Hmmm. I look for competence, integrity, good work ethic, plays well with others and initiative. Almost never get all 5.

Steve

michael reynolds May 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

When I hire people my main question is always, “How much of a pain in the ass will this person be?” But then I’m not a CEO. Wait, I am a CEO, actually, but on an exceedingly small scale. I’m the president of Reynolds Applegate Inc., a corporation that may have been temporarily suspended by the state of California due to my failure to hold board meetings. Apparently having coffee every morning with the only other board member doesn’t qualify. Who knew?

Guarneri May 12, 2014 at 5:15 pm

“I’m the president of Reynolds Applegate Inc., ………………….Apparently having coffee every morning with the only other board member doesn’t qualify.”

Dude. Find on line a one page form with the basics: 1) On this day the Board of………a quorum being present, did meet…….2) Minutes of the prior meeting were approved……3) xyz was discussed (how ’bout them Ducks??) 4) no further business being on the agenda……..the meeting was adjourned. Sign it as President with your wife as Secy and send the damned paper in. Count yourself lucky; eg:

So I have in front of me a self congratulatory notice from the SEC
discussing the illustrious Dodd-Frank act and their “presence exams.” I’d copy but can’t seem to, so I’ll paraphrase.

They tout “a disturbing number of cases of misallocation of fees and fees to portfolio companies undisclosed to limited partners.” I’ve been involved in this for 20-some years and over a hundred finds. I know of one case. One. And it was flat out fraud. Fees are one of the most scrutinized aspects of fund documents and oversight by LP’s.

They then turn to valuation issues, claiming over-valuation for management fee calculation purposes and ease of fundraising. Again, a focus of LP’s for 25 years. Mgmt fees are calculated on Commitments for 5 years for the big money (not valued assets under management; Ooopsy) and valued assets under the tail, where the dollars are small. And LP’s scrutinize the hell out of it.

The article concludes with a page of self-congratulatory prose about “transparency.” BS. Its a worthless activity conducted by kids fresh out of law school hell-bent on saving the world who don’t know their ass from a hole in the wall. But it costs middle to lower middle market firms dearly. And Big Firms? Bending the rules in their favor. Anyone surprised?

But Barney and Chris get to exculpate themselves…….

PS – and the only reason I can post this is that I changed my email name and address. They are really vindictive effs there.

Guarneri May 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm

“I look for competence, integrity, good work ethic, plays well with others and initiative.”

From my perspective this is a lot closer than that book. Maybe its covered under “initiative,” but we call it “attitude and energy.” I was surprised by steve’s comment that they don’t get all 5. The first three are just given’s. The last two, at least my version of initiative, are the deciders. Otherwise we keep looking.

And we never make a mistake………….no, no sirree. Not us man…..

michael reynolds May 12, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Guarneri:

I have a pathological dislike for paperwork. I won’t attempt to justify it: it’s not one of my more useful mental characteristics.

Guarneri May 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Michael

I suspected, that’s why I’m trying to simplify your life, but every time you advocate a regulation know that you aren’t the only person who’s time is better suited outside of paperwork.

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