Sex, Lies and Common Core Part II

Last week I posted a blog about an email that is making the rounds that was insanely inaccurate in its description of Common Core educational standards. And earlier this week I posted a link and brief quiz from JSOnline that clarified what Common Core is all about.

Well today, the Wisconsin State Senate began hearings on a new education law that will take educational authority out of the hands of the Department of Public Instruction and into the hands of a 15 member appointed panel…and let the legislature have the last and final say in anything education. Like they’d know, but that’s another topic. The whole charade is an attempt to derail Common Core standards by neutralizing its defenders and supporters around the state, who unsurprisingly resemble the superintendents of schools and teachers from around Wisconsin. Go figure.

But I digress!

But why are so many conservatives all het up about Common Core? Well it might be the continued attack that is spreading lies and disinformation about the standards. For a brief second I’ll outline a couple of high level points: Common Core is a set of achievement standards for math and English developed by a consortium of states (not the federal government) and does not mandate any particular curriculum or text books or teaching methods. Go back and read Erin Richards Primer on Common Core to get the better gist of what Common Core is…and then try to get your head around this:

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards are rallying a grass-roots movement in Wisconsin to stop the state from implementing the standards.

They say that the standards let the federal government take control of the curriculum at the expense of local control, and that they promote educational mediocrity and “highly political” content that undermines Judeo-Christian values.

On Saturday, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor Duke Pesta rallied Common Core opponents with that message at an event in Waukesha sponsored by the Republican Women of Waukesha County.

In a nearly two-hour seminar, he outlined what he called the “dangers and threats” that the Common Core standards pose on the educational system, liberties and Christian values. Pesta called the Common Core standards “socialism” funded by leftist lobbyists, including Bill Gates.

Pesta said the federal government effectively bribed states to adopt the standards without seeing them first.

“No state legislators, no governors, no teachers, no moms and dads had a say in this,” he said. “All Common Core is is No Child Left Behind on steroids. It’s one-size-fits-all education. It’s mindless testing. It’s the elimination of excellence.”

Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core, but efforts are underway in 22 of those states to fully or partially remove them from the standards, he said. Wisconsin is scheduled to implement Common Core in the 2014-’15 school year. Pesta said that would result in teachers teaching to the Common Core test and forcing students to memorize things instead of learning to think holistically.

He expressed concern that Common Core English standards would drop some classical literature from the curriculum in favor of government pamphlets and “highly political texts” that indoctrinate students to believe in man-made global warming rather than discussing character, morality and ethics.

Takes away local control? Local school boards would still select curriculum, books, etc…

Education mediocrity? Not like we have the toughest standards on the planet now. Common Core is far tougher than what Wisconsin had before its adoption.

One size fits all? Only to the point that all students would be expected to be at the same learning or understanding level at the same grade levels…again local schools get to select their own curriculum. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to grab for excellence, not a deterrent.

Highly political texts? Again there are NO texts mandated by Common Core…what gets used locally is selected locally.

And it seems to me that we have already been teaching to the test ever since President George W Bush foisted No Child Left Behind on an unsuspecting nation…from my point of view it seems far harder to teach to a test that will expect a student to master concepts and thinking over rote memorization…exactly the opposite of the claim above.

Now let’s get to the Judeo-Christian thing…first, public education shouldn’t be touching that with a ten foot pole…if they can even afford one…but just for grins let’s look at Common Core from someone directly involved with Christian education:

When it comes to the Catholic Church’s fundamental mission, Catholic schools are essential, not optional. In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, they are precious jewels that adorn our proud history of catechesis, social outreach and fidelity to the Gospel.

Our school system’s sterling reputation is due, in large part, to the fact that Catholic education always has been an enterprise driven by evangelization rather than separatism. In the public square, Catholic schools present a unique and indispensable contribution: a seamless and systematic blend of both intellectual and spiritual formation

According to the National Catholic Education Association, “The Common Core State Standards in no way compromise the Catholic identity or educational program of a Catholic school.” Roughly 100 Catholic dioceses and 35 states are making use of them in some way. The Iowa Assessments, ACT, SAT and other standardized tests are being realigned to correspond to them. In the private sector, many Catholic and other independent schools across the country are thus utilizing the Common Core Standards both voluntarily and selectively, with no state or federal strings attached.

Curriculum committees comprised of educators from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, as well as our Catholic colleges and universities, wrote the mathematics and language arts curriculum for the schools in the archdiocese. They compared our exit expectations with the Common Core Standards, making sure that our students will continue to be held to a superior academic standard that incorporates the best of both systems.

In the many areas where we already surpass the standards, we will continue to do so. But in some areas, where the standards actually introduce a higher level of academic expectation, we will rise to the challenge. In other words, we are using the Common Core Standards as a floor rather than a ceiling.

Using these standards in such a selective and limited way means that they will in no way detract from the Catholic identity of our schools. After all, they are not having any impact whatsoever on the substantial majority of the subject matters we teach. And where they are relevant, their integration into our exit expectations is directly managed by the archdiocese, making sure that nothing unacceptable is embedded in them. Moreover, there is a big difference between standards and a curriculum.

At the local level, principals, teachers and families make decisions about how to meet these newly integrated exit expectations. The standards are the destination, so to speak, but there are many good paths open to our educators. In view of their trustworthiness, proximity and hands-on experience, it is only right that they should be the ones to freely teach curricula, decide what books and materials to use, choose instructional methods, plan their lessons, select modes of evaluation and so on.

Now, we live in an increasingly secular society that is indifferent, if not hostile, to the spiritual aspects of reality. Our First Amendment may enshrine the universal human right to religious liberty but, more and more, our government threatens the church’s autonomy, freedom of conscience and any role whatsoever for religion in the public square. Nevertheless, isolationism is never an orthodox option.

Indeed, we must remain both active and vigilant when it comes to public policy, asserting our legitimate independence and defending our Catholic identity. However, we cannot be so proud as to imagine that we have nothing whatsoever to learn from those with whom we may disagree on some matters. Our careful and controlled integration of these standards reflects the fact that, when it comes to the Common Core as a whole, we are picking out whatever is valuable and leaving aside the rest. That is prudence, not compromise.

Radical rejection of the world, simply because it is not yet Christian, is the antithesis to evangelization and to the very missionary nature of the church herself. Good Christians bring the light of Christ to all the pathways of this present life. That is why, down through the ages, the saints have never been extreme separationists; they’ve been good citizens, evangelists and, most important, fine teachers.

hmmmm…

Oh, and let’s get back to the local control thing. It’s absolutely awful when you think the federal government is doing it…but when the brain trust in Madison comes up with the same idea…well it’s golden:

A bill that would create a state academic standards board with the power to derail the implementation of nationally aligned reading and math goals in Wisconsin’s public schools will likely see intense debate Thursday in Madison.

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the contentious Senate Bill 619 at 10 a.m.

A companion bill, Assembly Bill 617, was pulled from a vote last month in the Assembly Education Committee.

This week, Wisconsin Legislative Council attorneys confirmed that the lawmakers would indeed have the power to amend state standards under the bill, which concerns many people who believe that education and curriculum experts — not partisan politicians — should have the final authority over what kids should learn in each grade.

Yeah, that’ll work, I can’t conceive of a thing that could go wrong.

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  1. Common Core would present a very real challenge to the efficacy of the voucher supported charter school system, because of 1)its ability to measure achievement against not only Common Core’s standards, but also with regard to public and private schools. That’s the rub for Republicans who are trying to substitute Charters for first Public and then Private schools as well. Republicans have always got to have the boot on the neck.

  2. Ed,

    Thanks for the work you put in here. Standards or rules the Walker fascists don’t have the final say on just don’t sit well with the dictators.

  3. Common Core is nothing but the latest educational fad. As we in education know, these fads come in with great fanfare and leave with hardly a whimper while the next miracle cure for education arrives. It is a never ending game that measures winning by how much money it secures not by any increase in learning or student achievement. By those standards Common Core will be a smashing success because it will cost billions across the nation. However, it will have no impact on student achievement because while standards give you a target to measure against there isn’t a shred of evidence that standards raise achievement.

    I know most of the public doesn’t understand that but really it is just as simple as this. If you have a group of students that can’t jump over a 3 ft bar do you believe that raising the bar to 5 ft would increase the number of students who clear the bar? That is the premise you would have to accept in order to believe the idea that raising standards increases achievement. The fact is that standards don’t have anything to do with why students are not learning. All they do is give you new targets.

    Common Core may have morphed into a divisive political issue but as an educational issue it is nothing more than the latest fad claiming miracle results. It really isn’t difficult to predict that in the not too distant future Common Core will not be very common.

  4. Thanks for visiting the state.

    I agree that raising the standards doesn’t necessarily guarantee increasing achievement. However raising standards is not a bad idea in itself.

    Spending the billions on the testing and the corporations that compile the tests and the hold/control personal data on a nation’s entire school population is where I have trouble with the whole program.

    Evaluating public school teacher performance and/or public school performance on the basis of students in economically disadvantaged, poverty stricken districts is another place where I have some more problems with the program. And in WI our legislature and governor wish to do that to privatize low performance districts that are being held to standards which the for profit schools are not presently being subjected to.

    Going back to why and how CCSS came about is a horse that already left the barn about three years ago. Million$$ around the state have been spent to begin implementation in two subject areas. At this stage dropping the whole thing is not a real option without causing total chaos and further harming education generally throughout WI.

    While I appreciate your take, we have to make what we can of what is already quite underway in the process. We see Chicago teachers refusing to administer CCSS tests as one of the first steps to returning to real sanity and quality in education, so I don’t disagree with your final sentence.

    • I picked up your site on a google alert for common core. My comments refer to the math standards only. I agree with most of your points but the standards movement actually came about because certain education forces, such as the NCTM, wanted to remove mathematics as a divider of student ability. The initial standards they introduced lowered the bar from the defacto standards we have had in this country for decades. Some states bought into this effort hook line and sinker but most states didn’t. The CCSS math standards are not higher (or even as high) than we have had in the past. For example, even Alabama’s math standards were more than a 90% match to the CCSS content standards.

      I could go into great detail about CCSS and how they compare with international standards or the former standards of most states but the bottom line is that one size fits all math standards can only lower the bar, not raise it. Not everyone can run fast, sing well, or solve differential equations, and there is no reason that they should attempt to. There is no country (besides the USA) with paved streets that is attempting this folly because it is based on politics not sound educational principles. No matter, in the end it will fail because it is built on the impossible premise that everyone can be above average. And unfortunately, as someone who has been in the education field for more than 40 years, I can tell you that it is routine to abandon education experiments after spending millions and even billions. The cracks in the CCSS concept are starting to show up faster than they can be patched. It’s only a matter of time………

      • If the Common Core math standards are in fact lower than what even Alabama currently has…how would CCSS fail due to “the impossible premise that everyone can be above average”?

        • First of all, Alabama’s current standards are Common Core. I didn’t say that Common Core math standards were lower than Alabama’s previous standards, I said that Alabama’s previous standards were a 90% match to common core. In other words, as far as content, there is really very little change….(That does’t mean that a high percentage of Alabama’s students were meeting those standards.) Many states did have standards higher than or equal to Common Core and that would at least include, MA, WA, IN, CA, FL, AZ… and there are others.

          As far as math standards, here is what people outside of education don’t know. The Common Core math standards closely match traditional math as it has been taught for decades in this country. They are not substantially higher or lower than traditional mathematics. (Although they are written in a mathematical format that most non-math people, including most elementary teachers, can’t understand) Reformers (for lack of a better description) were originally against the CCSS because they feared they would return us to teaching traditional math in the classrooms. To placate these people a preamble was added to the CC math standards. This preamble is called the Standards of Mathematical Practice. This is a misnomer because these practices are not standards at all. I say that because the practices are written in general terms that can’t be measured and are nothing more than a continuation of the same fuzzy math we have been seeing for the last two decades. Now what is happening is that the CCSS are being sold as high standards based on their content but in most cases educators are being told to focus on the SMOP. This bait and switch technique will all fall apart when the actual testing of the CCSS begins (Just like it did in NY.) However, I was wrong because I predicted that the CCSS would fall apart when the testing started but it is beginning to crash even before it gets there.

          • CCSS isn’t falling apart because of any inherent issue with CCSS at this point…it has to do with the first word in the title of this blog: LIES! When opponents smear the program by accusing it of anti-religious bias or for supposedly introducing 4th graders to pornography…fear becomes the driving factor in opposition from the citizenry.

            And thank you for visiting and posting some serious points…and confirming that CCSS is written in such general forms that it is a far cry from mandating particular curriculums or text books or teaching methods.

            BTW: there is already a fair amount of complaints about failing testing as a result of No Child Left Behind programs and Race to the Top, etc. Many schools aren’t up to the task no matter what measuring stick is being used and parents aren’t aware of it.

            • Well said, Ed. While Common Core may not be best because of an over-reliance on testing or that they could be supplanted in the future, that’s not what the Baggers have a problem with.

              No, the Baggers want to institute a top-down board stacked with GOP cronies to go around the elected State Superintendent of Education. These guys want to be allowed to say “Jesus rode a dinosaur” in science textbooks, without giving the voters of Wisconsin a chance to say “No .”

              These people do not care about improving Wisconsin’s schools and/or economic competitiveness. THEY WANT CONTROL OVER THE REST OF US, and their complaints about Agenda 21 or other lies about the standards is complete projection.

  5. To summarize:

    Do we not have three real threats to Wisconsin’s formerly excellent educational system: inadequate and unequal standards; loss of funding for public schools and/or increased taxes due to state support of two systems; and legislative neutering, interference, or usurping authority of the DPI and its Superintendent?

    It will result in an educational tsunami of epic destructive proportions!

    I hold an uneducated governor such as Walker and his ALEC driven legislature responsible.

  6. Standards are like the ten commandments, they are up on the wall but the real religion is in the Bible, catechisms, books, workbooks. None of those have been approved by any groups or district in the state. They have been hijacked by the national group.
    The more than the groups, feds, unions etc. DPI etc have taken these things away from local districts the worse education has become.

    • Before I waste an hour on this, who is the audience, when was this recorded, is this a university course lecture? Four minutes in and all I’ve heard is right-wing religious fear mongering and blaming liberals. If Someone is going to stick this likely piece of crap video up, kindly do us a favor and let us know where you stand on it and at least summarize the theme of the lecture.

      As much as I dislike Bill and Melinda Gates, Arnie Duncan and his absolutely useless to anyone but the 1% boss, president Obysmal, the problem with education in this country is ALEC type agendas aimed at defunding public schools to force a larger opening for for-profit charters and voucher schools. Computer screens substituting for teachers teaching pupils, etc. with the chart/vouch models. Bill and Melinda and their ilk get richer as our society fails to provide any meaningful education to our next generations.