Monday, June 23, 2014

Common Core roots are tangled and fascinating

As North Carolina cannonballs into the political battle over Common Core standards,  I came across two in-depth pieces that helped me understand the roots of the current conflict.

Retired teacher Lou Nachman steered me to a recent Washington Post article on  "How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution."

Reporter Lyndsey Layton chronicles how the Microsoft founder's billions pushed the quest for academic standards from obscure wonk talk to a national craze in just a couple of years,  "one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history."

Layton outlines how Gates money brought together state leaders and groups on the right  (such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and left  (teachers unions and the Center for American Progress) to find common ground on Common Core.

 There's a fascinating section on the role of The Hunt Institute,  founded by former Democratic N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt and affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill.  According to the article,  the Hunt Institute got $5 million in Gates money in 2009,  "more than 10 times the size of its next largest donation,"  and used that money to coordinate more than a dozen organizations,  convene weekly conference calls and hire a strategist to create  a  “messaging tool kit that included sample letters to the editor (and) op-ed pieces that could be tailored to individuals depending on whether they were teachers, parents, business executives or civil rights leaders."

Last week's mail also brought the Southern Poverty Law Center's  "Public Schools in the Crosshairs:  Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core Standards." It also goes deep on the origins of Common Core,  as well as the various sources of opposition that have emerged.
Image from SPLC report
To state the obvious: SPLC,  an Alabama-based civil rights group,  has a strong point of view.  But you don't have to agree with those views, or the premise that some Common Core critics are striving to undermine public education and turn the system over to for-profit interests, to learn something from the 36-page report. It itemizes a number of concerns the group considers valid,  including the influence of the Gates Foundation and testing companies and the link between Common Core and a "toxic testing culture."

The report attempts to track the basis of claims that some might dismiss as  "the rantings of extremists"  --  that Common Core promotes socialism,  anti-Americanism and homosexuality,  for instance,  and is anti-Christian.  It notes that the standards specify only one set of required readings,  for high school students:  The Declaration of Independence,  the preamble to the Constitution,  the Bill of Rights and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.  Most of the objections are based on selections from "exemplar texts,"  or suggested readings,  the SPLC report says. 

No matter your views,  if you care about education and take the time to get through these two pieces,  you're almost sure to come away with more perspective on the debate  --  and to find something that'll make you crazy. 


Anonymous said...

"Alarmed that as many as 80 percent of community college students were taking remedial classes, lawmakers had recently passed a bill that required Kentucky to write new, better K-12 standards and tests." So instead of the evil plot that a couple mice cooked up that day we see educators know they are failing and know they need to do something. Doing requires resources and someone who has the vision to see the failure at a national and international level. Fortunately for the USA that someone was one of our own. Bill Gates.

Anonymous said...

Read all the Common Core directives and new teaching policies and you WILL come away with a distrust of this curriculum. It data mines not only the kids, but the families too(how much money you make, religion, social affiliations, etc)
It calls for data mining of attitudes, control factors, and stresses. English assignments are all geared toward the common good, not the individual(socialism). Math doesn't come with simple steps, it uses unnecessary steps to get to the outcome. Do your homework parents, teachers, and future parents....

Garth Vader said...

SPLC could spot "racism" in a Corn Flake. As far as credibility, citing SPLC is the equivalent of citing Lyndon LaRouche.

Anonymous said...

Anne, I believe this blog, and many of the anti-Common Core
writers are totally missing the point.
Most knowledgeable educators will agree that we do need some common standards and common methods to measure how well our kids are being educated. Ultimately this should be purpose of Common Core.
Any changes, or new laws in this regard should be focused on providing and maintaining a ongoing solid basis for CC that we can all understand and believe in.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 8:35 AM - Common Core does not promulgate teaching policies nor does it make directives. It only establishes a minimum set of standards for math and language knowledge and skills that American students should be expected to know upon graduation.

Anonymous said...

CC$$ are intimately and inextricably tied to testing, testing that is inappropriate and overwhelming.

CC$$ are developmentally inappropriate at lower levels.

CC$$ are tied to corporations that will make MASSIVE profits, were written by people that are not educators, and were pushed far too fast and far too hard.

From your neighborhood Bad Ass Teacher. 48,000 strong

Anonymous said...

Common Core is being inappropriately implemented in lower grade levels when students should be learning the fundamentals. That is my primary complaint. Save the problem solving for middle and high school years, after a strong foundation has been built.

Anonymous said...

My seven year old will be starting his third year of common core. We are thrilled with his progress. I have studied both sides of the issue and amazed how the opponents of CC has blinded their selves to the truth.The state and local boards are responsible for curricular. Most people don't realize its up to set state to set standards. Aim high or low , it's up to your local school boards.

Shamash said...

My main concern is that the math standards don't go far enough to cover Calculus.

I'm just hoping that this doesn't mean that schools will stop at such a low point thinking they've covered all the "necessary" bases.

I like the Singapore Math curriculum which starts pre-Calculus and Calculus in the 11th grade.

Of course, parts of it could be "Common Core" compliant, but I'm sure it leaves gaps while also covering more of other subjects.

I would rather see a standard that goes through at least a year of Calculus, just so we don't default to such a low bar as what the "standard" covers while thinking it makes kids "college ready".

When it wouldn't for the typical decent "STEM" program.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 10:10 AM - Please cite specific clauses within the standards where testing is addressed. Please cite specific clauses within the standards where ties to large corporations are addressed. Here are the math standards for Kindergarten. Please explain how these are developmentally inappropriate.

Know number names and the count sequence.
Count to 100 by ones and by tens.
Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).
Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects).
Count to tell the number of objects.
Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality.
When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.
Understand that the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted.
Understand that each successive number name refers to a quantity that is one larger.
Count to answer "how many?" questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1-20, count out that many objects.
Compare numbers.
Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.1
Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.

If you have an issue with the methods by which these standards are taught and evaluated then address the implementers, not the standards themselves.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 11:19 AM - Are these not fundamentals?

In Grade 4, instructional time should focus on three critical areas: (1) developing understanding and fluency with multi-digit multiplication, and developing understanding of dividing to find quotients involving multi-digit dividends; (2) developing an understanding of fraction equivalence, addition and subtraction of fractions with like denominators, and multiplication of fractions by whole numbers; (3) understanding that geometric figures can be analyzed and classified based on their properties, such as having parallel sides, perpendicular sides, particular angle measures, and symmetry.

In Grade 5, instructional time should focus on three critical areas: (1) developing fluency with addition and subtraction of fractions, and developing understanding of the multiplication of fractions and of division of fractions in limited cases (unit fractions divided by whole numbers and whole numbers divided by unit fractions); (2) extending division to 2-digit divisors, integrating decimal fractions into the place value system and developing understanding of operations with decimals to hundredths, and developing fluency with whole number and decimal operations; and (3) developing understanding of volume.

In Grade 6, instructional time should focus on four critical areas: (1) connecting ratio and rate to whole number multiplication and division and using concepts of ratio and rate to solve problems; (2) completing understanding of division of fractions and extending the notion of number to the system of rational numbers, which includes negative numbers; (3) writing, interpreting, and using expressions and equations; and (4) developing understanding of statistical thinking.

Anonymous said...

You ALL are missing the point. I have no problems with set standards for all students to reach. But the way teachers are being trained is they do a lot of projects and hands-on work. That's nice and really good teachers do that anyway. But this jumping around and not concentrating on basics is a recipe for disaster in CMS.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that the common core math standards are a nightmare for parents and most teachers. It is so far removed from the traditional methods we all learned. If someone used the multiple step process to complete a mathematical equation in the professional world, they would be fired immediately.
The other issues involving privacy and psychological analysis are also a nightmare. Has anyone read the US Constitution recently?

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with what CC is trying to achieve, namely critical thinking. However, in the early grades, kids need to memorize. They do not have the neural pathways in their brains sufficiently connected to support high order critical thinking. Furthermore, this emphasis caters to linear thinking such as what you would find in science, math, engineering, and technology, subjects Bill Gates has a keen interest in. But all people do not think that way. There are artists and musicians who think in two dimensions, which those of us who are linear thinkers quite often can't follow, but whose right brain creativity is necessary for the progress of culture. So I think that what will happen is the common core concept will fail because it is too centralized. It needs to account for differences in individual learning styles that are best addressed by teachers. If they are spending all their time testing and gathering data on students, they are spending less time developing unique lesson plans that will work for the students they are responsible for. This is the same problem doctors are facing with electronic record keeping. A number have told me they no longer have much face time with patients because they spend all their time entering data into the computer.

Shamash said...

June 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM
" There are artists and musicians who think in two dimensions..."

Good mathematicians know how to think outside the tesseract.

Shamash said...

"I can tell you that the common core math standards are a nightmare for parents and most teachers. It is so far removed from the traditional methods we all learned. "

I'm not so sure that we all learned math so well using the "traditional methods".

Repetition is good for some things, but too much math past the basics was taught that way.

I see much better explanations in many modern math textbooks than I recall seeing as a child.

And I did go on to get a BS in Math, so I did eventually learn a little.

Some of the things I see in Common Core make enough sense to me but sometimes I think there is too much emphasis on "theory" over practice when practice is probably more useful for younger kids.

But I like Singapore Math, too.

One of the DUMBEST books I saw recently, though, was called "Everyday Mathematics" which was such slow, repetitive garbage (that rarely seemed to get to the point) that I was glad to see it dropped.

Of course, they've probably "tweaked" it to make it CCC.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:50

You don't know what you don't know.

Do the research yourself, you will be surprised.

Anonymous said...

Common core standards are not a nightmare for teachers. I gave taught 1st grade for 10 years and yes we still teach the basics...sight words, letter sounds, counting, etc. the standards don't have anything to do with methodology or the way things are taught... That's up to the teacher. What these standards do is make students use, apply, and explain what they have learned.

Anonymous said...

I think they are about control.

Anonymous said...

did anyone else consider another motive for dropping Common Coe in this state? I would think the cost of immplenting Common Core is counter productive to expanding the number of charter schools in this state. Especially for those who are wanting to cash in on the charter school trend. After all, it was these current crop of republicans who lifted the cap and now they want are doing away with an expensive mandate. I could be way off base, perhaps nothing more than food for thought?

Anonymous said...

CCSS is nothing but a business plan to enrich the 0.01%. A huge component of CCSS is the assessment piece which will benefit Pearson, ETS and computer software companies since testing will eventually be an online requirement. Furthermore, Pearson can streamline their wares for only one set of standards instead of one for each state. Gates is a master of creating monopolistic markets like he did for Windows.

He gots together with David Coleman to create national "standards" They are developed by non-educators behind closed doors and used the USDoE to make them mandatory (RttT). CCSS were promoted as being voluntary and state-led but every major player was bought off by Gates money.

Gates has used his money to become the nation's school superintendent, but has never taught a day in his life or even attended public schools. The policies and vision Gates has for our schools are destructive and one he would never expose his own children to. This is what happens when billionaires and politicians run schools instead of parents and teachers.

The USDoE needs to be closed immediately. I'm not a Tea Party fan, but CCSS is an obvious federal intrusion. CCSS may be standards, but standards and the curriculum will be inextricably linked due to the testing requirements.

Anonymous said... software companies will be educating your CMS students starting this school year. It's called Computerized Individual Learning, a program being rolled out at several CMS elementary schools.

Anonymous said...

Thanks posting The Washington Post article!