Thursday, August 2, 2012

Common Core = rotten at the center

Update: Just relocated this video

People - I am getting really worried about education trends and you might be too. All kinds of crazy styles and fads run through education but when the "architect" of the national standards/Common Core (and now the head of the College Board, which develops and administers the SAT and AP tests) David Coleman said that he believes in emphasizing so-called “informational texts” over literature and have the "the core standards for the first time demand that 50% of the text students encounter in kindergarten through 5th grade is informational text…" I said "what?"  But Mr. Coleman, was not quite done. He rocked on and added this beauty of a statement:

“[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%$* about what you feel or what you think.” - David Coleman
I was puzzled by his attitude. This man is an educator speaking to educators of young people at meeting about how to best educate young people. This is not Bart Simpson having a beer. This is David Coleman who founded the Grow Network ‐ acquired by McGraw‐Hill in 2005 ‐ which has become the nation’s leader in assessment reporting and customized instructional materials. Mr. Coleman was a lecturer at the University of London before going to work in the pro bono education area  ( what is that one wonders - is pro bono code for sales or marketing?) of McKinsey & Company. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale University, Oxford University and Cambridge University. Here are two things he is not; a classroom teacher and pretty clearly he is not a very mature human being.

Common Core "architect" David Coleman
From his impressive credentials you may believe he knows a lot about education. But  actually he seems to only know a lot about education policy, specifically  education reform.   His statement about stories was so inane and mean spirited that it really was frightening. This person is in charge of policy for young learners?  We have a real problem when hot shot policy people can trash talk literature and are not pelted with virtual tomatoes and booed off the stage. But my shock is way overdue. This  CCSSI and the denigration of the study of literature is all part of a wider, long term plan. Susan Ohanian said in her recent blog: 

"Educating Students to Fill Most In-Demand Jobs

And so corporate courtier Arne Duncan tells a group of education reporters that unemployment is caused more by a 'skills crisis' than a 'jobs crisis,' and that we aren't educating students to fill the most in-demand jobs.

Downgrading the importance of fiction in our schools, saying that children gain information about the world only through nonfiction, is the Common Core's role in "educating students' to fill those most in-demand jobs.

Schoolteachers who have gloried in reading
Rotten Ralph, The Just-So Stories, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Incident at Hawk's Hill, The Acorn People, and hundreds of other titles with their students are late in getting to this corporate party. In Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Chris Hedges points out that universities have already accepted their corporate role, and "As universities become glorified vocational schools for corporations they adopt values and operating techniques of the corporations they serve.
"An oft-repeated assertion of self-proclaimed Common Core architect David Coleman is that non-fiction is where students get information about the world and that's why schools must stop teaching so much fiction. In this assertion, Coleman is echoing the corporate world which he is hired to serve." Read more here
My complaints are largely and argumentum ad hominum.  Let's talk about what David Coleman is actually doing. His credentials and connections  have allowed him and his gravy train-enthused allies, to foist a huge dose of snake oil on the Massachusetts public schools. His snake oil Rx - the Common Core National Standards CCSSI exist to fix a system that is not broken.  Read an informational text below that is full of data. It will show you, if you haven't already been besotted with wasteful and wanton reading of fiction, that following the Massachusetts ELA frameworks in the classroom was, as documented fact, doing a great job of educating students. The excerpt below was written by Jamie Gass May 08, 2012  He is director of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts think tank ( all emphasises are mine).
"Architects of the landmark 1993 education reform law understood and appreciated our literary heritage; that's why Massachusetts public school students were reading much of the work produced by these and other ancient and modern poets. The results of our students' grounding in poetry, literature and higher-level vocabulary have been outstanding. In 2005, the commonwealth's fourth- and eighth-graders came out tops in the reading component of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card.
In 2007, 2009 and 2011, each time the test was administered, they repeated that feat. But recently, our students started learning 60 percent less about the many great Massachusetts poets and literary figures. That's because the commonwealth ditched its nation-leading English standards for inferior national standards that will have students reading far less poetry and literature, particularly in high school. Now, via these national education standards, Massachusetts has exactly the same literary expectations as they do in low-performing states like Louisiana, West Virginia and Mississippi." More 

This movement for "reform" and hue and cry of danger! began in the Dark Ages of President Ronald Regan Reign. It was he who initiated the study with an introduction so over the top it now sounds like it was written by Stephen Colbert:
from "A Nation at Risk,   1983

"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security,and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future -as a Nation and a people. What was un-imaginable a generation ago has begun to occur. Others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an  act of war.
As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in Student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have,in effect, been committing an act of unthinking. unilateral educational disarmament."
Phew - I was so worried after reading this I had to check the water and canned goods supplies in my apocalypse shelter.  But wait - maybe there is more to this story?
... Project Censored reports: "Six years later, [after A Nation at Risk] when state governors and President George Bush set national education goals after the 1989 education summit, the administration charged Sandia National Laboratories, a scientific research organization, with investigating the state of public education. In 1991, Sandia presented its first findings to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. While the response from these government agencies should have been one of some celebration, instead it was one of silence -- a silence compounded by the national media. The results did not reveal a seriously deficient educational system in dire need of profound changes such as a nationwide voucher program.
 And in Wikipedia we find this[below]. Apparently the "truth" about the education crisis was so strong, it was necessary to suppress or ignore any other findings.

"In 1990, Admiral James Watkins, the Secretary of Energy, commissioned the Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico to document the decline in the Nation at Risk report with actual data. When the systems scientists broke down the SAT test scores into subgroups they discovered contradictory data. While the overall average scores declined, the subgroups of students increased. In statistics this is known as Simpson's paradox. The 3 authors presented their report. David Kearns, Deputy Secretary of Education allegedly told the authors of the report,"You bury this or I'll bury you", though this quote is disputed by Diane Ravitch. Education Week published an article on the Sandia report in 1991. Unlike the Nation at Risk report, the Sandia Report critique received almost no attention."

The fact is that the Ed Reform people do not care what they deform or who they hurt with their policies. After all, this is the real world and they are grown ups. They know, "...people really don’t give a s%$* about what you feel or what you think.” - David Coleman
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