Friday, January 24, 2014

Common Core Sets Unrealistic and Unscientific Expectations

The whole theory behind the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is that if we set the academic bar higher, our students will achieve at a higher level. I guess the developers think that if you just put the material out there using great teachers that all students will learn it . . . automatically! This is the same theory that was used for  the “No Child Left Behind Act”. That federal law said that by the year 2014 (ten years from the start date of 2004), all students nationwide would attain proficiency in English language arts and math. That's this year folks! Did that effort at raising the bar work?  Not even one state out of 50 has even come close to this unrealistic standard. Why should educators and parents believe that this new standard is any better?

Both No Child Left Behind and CCSS are based on a pseudo science theory many of us call The Lake Wobegon Effect. The Lake Wobegon effect is based on a mythical town in Minnesota called Lake Wobegon. This town was created by Garrison Keillor, for his PBS radio show called A Prairie Home Companion.

In his introduction to his stories about Lake Wobegon each week, Kiellor starts off by describing Lake Wobegon as the town where “All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” …... It's a joke! All three of those characterizations are impossible because they defy the laws of mathematical statistical distribution.

The same principle applies to the No Child Left Behind requirement that all children must be proficient in ELA and math by 2014. That's because as Diane Ravitch, an expert in standards (she served on the Board of the NAEP) explains in her new book “proficient” is generally considered by experts to be achievement well above average on nationally normed standardized tests. You cannot order all children to be above average just by passing a law or by setting standards! But our government believes (and of course Louisiana Believes) that you can order teachers to somehow teach all students to achieve at an above average level. Never mind that some students were what we once knew as “crack babies”, or suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, or (as one of my grandchildren) are autistic. Or how about the thousands of kids that don't have a single book in their home, or a quiet place to do their homework, or even one parent who cares at all about whether or not they do well in school?

If it were true that we can get children to learn at a certain level just by setting standards, we could order all children to learn calculus, or physics, or even quantum mechanics just by having the BESE set such a standard. I know from my experience as a science teacher that less than 1% of the American public can ever learn quantum mechanics even if they were to really, really apply themselves to that goal.

But what about the Common Core? (Please read this excellent speech on Common Core by Diane Ravitch) Were not the CCSS set by a panel of experts in K-12 education who had a strong basic knowledge of learning theory as well as solid classroom teaching experience? Absolutely not! There were no practicing classroom teachers, and no early childhood education experts on the CCSS writing committee. The Chairman of the CCSS project was David Coleman, a person with even fewer K-12 education credentials than our own Louisiana amateur state superintendent. Coleman was turned down for a job as a high school teacher in New York because he was not certified to be a teacher. No one knows whether or not the CCSS are practical and achievable because they were never tested in any way before being mandated in the majority of our states.

The early results of CCSS as measured by one of the new common core tests were disastrous! The first results of testing in New York state, a state that always performs better than Louisiana on the NAEP test, classified 70% of New York students as failures! Have the Common Core standards been modified as a result of the New York testing? Absolutely not! As Diane Ravitch explains, there is no provision for modifying the CCSS when problems are found. But to make things worse, there is no evidence whatsoever that putting students through a CCSS compliant curriculum will prepare them for college or to compete favorably with students from other nations. Our students are being used as guinea pigs for this experiment.

There is only one sure thing that we can all depend upon in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. That is: teachers will most definitely be blamed if our students don't do as well as expected by our non educator bosses who have set the bar for the CCSS!


Anonymous said...

Thank You for finally stating the truth - the same truth teachers have known for years - you can not reach every child - some students just don't care to learn, some do care but have no support system - I have students whose major concern after 2:30pm is finding a place to sleep for the night; some who worry about if they'll have food to eat or electricity to warm themselves on cold nights - it is a fantasy to think those students will perform above average just b/c we tell them they should! Not to mention that as they raise standards, they render our current resources obsolete and fail to provide us with new ones - how much sense does that make - here's what you need to teach, sorry we don't have textbooks, workbooks, or any other resources to help you teach it, AND BY THE WAY - your job now depends on how well your students perform on this new test at semesters end! (it's important to note that Alg 1 and other math clssses were changed drastically). Common Core is unrealistic and any teacher will tell you that! We're sick and tired of Non-teachers telling us what we should be able to do with our students - it should be required that you teach at least 1 full year before being allowed to even suggest legislation affecting teachers!

Anonymous said...

Finally, a blog that gets it. Thanks from the many teachers who are sick of the corrupt, lieing scoundrels who think they know what goes on in a classroom.