Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Common Core and Ed Reform; Overwhelming Evidence of Failure

Louisiana adopted Common Core standards sight unseen.
Louisiana adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, before they were even written, partly because the Louisiana power brokers (LABI) and some out-of state billionaires said "the children could not wait". Strong medicine was needed to cure the ills of public education. Our reform oriented leaders thought we could cash in on generous grants offered by the O'Bama administration to implement this scheme without the need for clinical trials.  The only problem was that since there was not enough federal money appropriated to fund all the states that took the plunge on Common Core, only a few states were selected for the grants. Louisiana passed laws, and regulations forcing all our public schools to adopt and implement the standards even though we did not get the grant money. On top of what was done to our students, our teachers were stripped of tenure rights that had been working well for many years, and instead changed to test based evaluations putting teacher’s jobs in constant jeopardy based on error prone VAM formulas.

We would never allow completely untested medicine or drugs to be used on our children; not so with education experiments.
This idea of administering strong untested medicine to cure the ills of education was sort of like how parents used to give their children caster oil and fraudulent patent medicines before they had access to modern medicines tested using clinical trials.  Also, today, for education strategies, we have well established methods of field testing and validation that should be completed before we try new ideas on innocent children. But unfortunately the self appointed education reformers like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, the Waltons and others who would never use untested practices on there own businesses, decided that "the children could not wait" for studies of new reform standards to be validated. Billions of dollars of Gates money were spent on promotion of the untested standards to push fo adoption in all the states before any real opposition could build up. In addition, charter schools were promoted, supposedly so that children could "escape" failing public schools.

 Here is what Diane Ravitch ( a highly respected historian of education practice) thought of this education reform "medicine". That opinion piece in the New York times was written three years ago. It revealed that the new standards were not working. But the reformers responded that the new standards had just not yet been given enough time to demonstrate their real curative effects on children. Just give it more time and work harder at implementation and the success would come. In Louisiana, John White and LABI decided that what we needed was more test prep, more data checks on student progress, and more punishment of teachers and schools based on test scores. That would do it. Stay the course.

The low test scores used to justify reform are now stagnant or lower than they were before the reforms.
Now the latest average scores of the 2019 NAEP  and ACT tests are even more dismal. Louisiana's ACT average scores have been dropping like a rock for the last three years. After all that test prep done at the expense of real teaching! The very test data that was used to justify Louisiana's headlong plunge into reform, privatization and repeal of teacher rights, shows that our reward was lower, not higher, student performance. But now White has rigged it so that we are graduating thousands of functional illiterates using lowered graduation requirements so that our graduation rate can go up. Wasn't it the business community that insisted we needed to hire John White so that he could eliminate diploma mills and make our high school diplomas mean something?

John White's deception revealed by several educator bloggers.
John White's continued deception is verified in this recent blog by math teacher Gary Rubinstein and this blog by Mercedes Schneider both of which debunk John White' propaganda about NAEP results for Louisiana. (This blog exposed the deception first) The Rubinstein blog also reveals that Louisiana's 8th grade math performance is now lower than in 2007, after all that test prepping and all that teacher bashing! It's just not working, and we have now wasted 8 years on this disastrous project. So what's the reformer reaction now? John White repeats that higher student expectations will eventually work. Based on what? Wishful thinking? That's after he quietly lowered all promotion and graduation requirements so our graduation rate would artificially go up.

Most other states adopted the same defective standards.
But Louisiana is not alone in producing stagnant results on all the tests used to measure the success or failure of education reform. This article reveals the nationwide failure of reform. It is my opinion that Common Core, which was adopted in one form or another by most of the states, is dragging down our entire nation's performance. Common Core is not the right curriculum for a large percentage of our students who need career training. The strict, poorly designed college prep stuff in Common Core is lousy for the college bound and disastrous for career bound students. As we spend millions on standardized testing, students nation-wide are being denied vital training that would actually produce rewarding careers that do not require a bachelor's degree. Instead, teachers are forced to drill students in boring "close reading" and quadratic equations that most will never use even once in their lifetimes.

The teachers and schools serving poor children are not to blame.
Teachers never asked for these poorly designed reforms. From the very beginning teachers complained that the standards were not age appropriate, that the reading requirements (close reading and reading dry instruction guides) and the Eureka math, needlessly complex math calculations were killing kids' love of learning. When teacher tenure was repealed without due process and replaced with test based "accountability" John White told teachers this would "empower" the best teachers to personally negotiate better salaries. Ask any good teacher you know if she/he has been empowered. White who once said we did not need real teacher education, is now pushing teacher training and mentoring. Many of our best teachers are retiring early because of these attacks on the profession and now we have a teacher shortage. At one time White proposed placing 1/10 of teachers on a path to dismissal each year until student test scores improved. I think he has given up on that one.

Almost all schools now being rated as D or F simply have a high percentage of high poverty students. The standardized tests scores and therefore the school grades are directly related to the poverty level of a school and almost nothing else. We don't need to close these schools down or turn them into charters. We need to provide smaller classes, lots of age appropriate books that children want to read and make sure poor children have access to pre-school and a release from the Common Core. There is absolutely no incentive for our best teachers to teach in high poverty schools. Instead teachers continue to be demoralized by the unfair teacher and school grading system and the defective merit pay system.

What if the reform billions had actually been spent on at-risk children and pre-school for all?
In pushing this useless education reform, the Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation and others have established what we now call Astroturf local organizations whose sole purpose is to push the exact same failed reform year after year. In Louisiana we have New Schools for New Orleans, New Schools for Baton Rouge, Stand for Children, etc. which are all funded by out-of-state foundations. Why do they insist on throwing away millions of dollars on failed reforms in little old Louisiana?  Couldn't they just have given our schools that serve at-risk students a few million to really help kids? Pre school for at-risk students is one program that has actually been shown to work. Why not fund pre school? I guess they just can't give up this pet project that they would never try on their own children. As long as the carpetbaggers in the Astroturf organizations are paid to "deform" our schools, we will continue to neglect the real needs of our students, while our tax dollars are used to fund charters and more and more tests.