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Article: Why I can not support common core standards

Posted by on Feb. 26, 2013 at 4:46 PM
  • 28 Replies
By Diane Ravitch


I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards.

I have decided that I cannot support them.

In this post, I will explain why.

I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.

​For the past two years, I have steadfastly insisted that I was neither for nor against the Common Core standards. I was agnostic. I wanted to see how they worked in practice. I wanted to know, based on evidence, whether or not they improve education and whether they reduce or increase the achievement gaps among different racial and ethnic groups.

After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wait five or ten years to find out whether test scores go up or down, whether or not schools improve, and whether the kids now far behind are worse off than they are today.

I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.

The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?

President Obama and Secretary Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true.

They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.

​In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash. In some cases, the Common Core standards really were better than the state standards, but in Massachusetts, for example, the state standards were superior and well tested but were ditched anyway and replaced with the Common Core. The former Texas State Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott, has stated for the record that he was urged to adopt the Common Core standards before they were written.

The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically. The claim that the writers of the standards picked their arbitrary ratios because NAEP has similar ratios makes no sense. NAEP gives specifications to test-developers, not to classroom teachers.

I must say too that it was offensive when Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice issued a report declaring that our nation’s public schools were so terrible that they were a “very grave threat to our national security.” Their antidote to this allegedly desperate situation: the untried Common Core standards plus charters and vouchers.

Another reason I cannot support the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing. A principal in the Mid-West told me that his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs. He said the exams looked like AP exams and were beyond the reach of many students.

When Kentucky piloted the Common Core, proficiency rates dropped by 30 percent. The Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents has already warned that the state should expect a sharp drop in test scores.

What is the purpose of raising the bar so high that many more students fail?

Rick Hess opined that reformers were confident that the Common Core would cause so much dissatisfaction among suburban parents that they would flee their public schools and embrace the reformers’ ideas (charters and vouchers). Rick was appropriately doubtful that suburban parents could be frightened so easily.

Jeb Bush, at a conference of business leaders, confidently predicted that the high failure rates sure to be caused by Common Core would bring about “a rude awakening.” Why so much glee at the prospect of higher failure rates?.

I recently asked a friend who is a strong supporter of the standards why he was so confident that the standards would succeed, absent any real-world validation. His answer: “People I trust say so.” That’s not good enough for me.

Now that David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, has become president of the College Board, we can expect that the SAT will be aligned to the standards. No one will escape their reach, whether they attend public or private school.

Is there not something unseemly about placing the fate and the future of American education in the hands of one man?

I hope for the sake of the nation that the Common Core standards are great and wonderful. I wish they were voluntary, not mandatory. I wish we knew more about how they will affect our most vulnerable students.

But since I do not know the answer to any of the questions that trouble me, I cannot support the Common Core standards.

I will continue to watch and listen. While I cannot support the Common Core standards, I will remain open to new evidence. If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so. I will listen to their advocates and to their critics.

I will encourage my allies to think critically about the standards, to pay attention to how they affect students, and to insist, at least, that they do no harm.

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by on Feb. 26, 2013 at 4:46 PM
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Replies (1-10):
gsprofval
by on Feb. 26, 2013 at 5:44 PM
1 mom liked this

From what I've read on the common core, it is another waste of time and money and is just another way to dumb down kids even more.

Heck, with common core, kids won't have to learn how to even write their own names in cursive let alone learn how to figure a checkbook.

Kris_PBG
by on Feb. 26, 2013 at 6:29 PM
Well, in all honesty, I don't remember cursive writing ever being a standard. (At least not since I've been teaching).

I teach the younger grades, but I don't remember check book balancing ever being a standard for high school standards.

I know my sister is in her early thirties and I taught her how to balance her checkbook the night before she left for college! Lol!

Maybe others will have additional insights into that.


Quoting gsprofval:

From what I've read on the common core, it is another waste of time and money and is just another way to dumb down kids even more.


Heck, with common core, kids won't have to learn how to even write their own names in cursive let alone learn how to figure a checkbook.


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mjande4
by Member on Feb. 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM
1 mom liked this

The common core standards raises the bar.  For those that are academically sound and have a strong home life, it won't change much, but for those that do not the gap is and will continue to grow.  Here's how I know, my fourth grader is literally doing the same algebra that the seniors at my high school are doing.  Now, my fourth grader is in honor's but, he's STILL in FOURTH GRADE, not TWELFTH.  The common core is going to continue to churn out a generation of disenchanted students.  It comes down to the following, the government has to STOP pushing an agenda with the belief that EVERY child is going to a four year university and allow kids to begin a technical track much earlier.

MansfieldMama
by on Feb. 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM
1 mom liked this

I wish there was a "Love" button!  This is exactly how I feel.

Quoting mjande4:

The common core standards raises the bar.  For those that are academically sound and have a strong home life, it won't change much, but for those that do not the gap is and will continue to grow.  Here's how I know, my fourth grader is literally doing the same algebra that the seniors at my high school are doing.  Now, my fourth grader is in honor's but, he's STILL in FOURTH GRADE, not TWELFTH.  The common core is going to continue to churn out a generation of disenchanted students.  It comes down to the following, the government has to STOP pushing an agenda with the belief that EVERY child is going to a four year university and allow kids to begin a technical track much earlier.


beanielips
by on Feb. 27, 2013 at 9:59 PM

**Disclaimer- kids are running around, I am making dinner, and I feel like the walking dead.  If I come back tomorrow and this just doesn't make sense, it's going away.  Also, please ignore the spelling...

It is an interesting delima.  I know that I spend a lot of time hoping that this is going to be better.  And for the most part, in my subject matter, I think that it will.  I teach math, where it has been reduced to nothing more than trying to figure out which of the 4 answres make the most sense.  I have seen kids that can barely pass my high school classes pass the STAR, while students that are very intellegent and take time to think about the why and how fail.

Today I spent all day in EDI (Explicit Direct Instruction) from DataWorks (that a a cluster F if I've ever seen one).  But in reality it was from someone that left DataWorks and went out on his own.  He was able to weave the ideas together.  But it amazes me that CCS are basically ellimanating liturature.  Yes, we need to be able to read informational text, but literature teaches so much about a time period or culture. It just seems to me that we are forgetting that we are HUMAN and more than just busy bees.

sally310
by on Mar. 1, 2013 at 4:46 PM

I could write all day about this topic, but will try to keep it short!!!

in my opinion there should be a more holistic approach.  Trying to make all kids reach one standard is ridiculous.  Lets get back to basics and use effective programs to make sure all our kids can read, write and do math.  My daughter has Down syndrome and she can read well, write and do mulitiplication.  Needless to say she did not learn this in PS.  I had to pull her out and home school.  So I know first hand that there are some extremely effective programs, and no they don't cost a lot.  In fact many can be implimented for no cost at all.  I share a lot with my friends who's kids are struggling in ps.  They are always amazed that the schools do not use these programs.

 

I would also like to weigh in on the topic of cursive.  I went to school in England and we do not learn cursive.  Everyone just eventually develops their own form of what we called "joined up writing."  Its like a hybrid of print and cursive.  Its very efficient and does not take time out from class.  My son spent half of second grade on cursive, it was a nightmare.  Many kids, especially boys are just not mature enough and do not have the fine motor skills to do cursive at that age.  What a waste of time.  At the same time there was no focus on writing sentenses.  Eventually i had to pull him out to home school so he could actually learn to write instead of just fill in the blank and take words from the "word bank" on  a work sheet and fill them in.  As for literature, where is that in PS anymore.  I was horrifyed by the quality of what they read.  In fourth grade they read an Amber Brown book!!!!!   Really!!!   With all the great literature available that is just pathetic. 

Both my kids are now in a private school so that they could get an education.  In fifth grade my son is reading Sherlock Holmes.  The vocaulary is amazing, the stories are compelling, the characters are wonderful, a truly engaging event.  And no, i am not wealthy, as a family we are making tremendous financial sacrifices to have our kids in a school where they will have a chance at a real education.

Kris_PBG
by on Mar. 1, 2013 at 7:45 PM
2 moms liked this
Shrug - no idea why you think this is a bash public school issue.



I have heard about some private schools implementing common core standards also. Either way, private schools have standards they teach to as well. Setting a goal to be met or surpassed is not a new concept or one unique to public schools.



My kids have had great experiences at public school where they not only get a "real" education - but a fabulous one.. We also have kids with special needs at our school (including Down's syndrome) that are thriving in inclusion classrooms with additional services through ESE teachers. Your assumption that this could not occur in any public school setting is painting very broad strokes. Furthermore, the school also has gifted programs, so those ESE students needs are also met as well. In our area, there is actually no private school that provides services to children on both ends of the exceptional student education continuum, in addition to educating regular Ed. students.



There are a lot of great schooling options, that vary by area, district, etc.., it seems like a gross over-simplification to categorically bash one.



Quoting sally310:

I could write all day about this topic, but will try to keep it short!!!



in my opinion there should be a more holistic approach.  Trying to make all kids reach one standard is ridiculous.  Lets get back to basics and use effective programs to make sure all our kids can read, write and do math.  My daughter has Down syndrome and she can read well, write and do mulitiplication.  Needless to say she did not learn this in PS.  I had to pull her out and home school.  So I know first hand that there are some extremely effective programs, and no they don't cost a lot.  In fact many can be implimented for no cost at all.  I share a lot with my friends who's kids are struggling in ps.  They are always amazed that the schools do not use these programs.



 



I would also like to weigh in on the topic of cursive.  I went to school in England and we do not learn cursive.  Everyone just eventually develops their own form of what we called "joined up writing."  Its like a hybrid of print and cursive.  Its very efficient and does not take time out from class.  My son spent half of second grade on cursive, it was a nightmare.  Many kids, especially boys are just not mature enough and do not have the fine motor skills to do cursive at that age.  What a waste of time.  At the same time there was no focus on writing sentenses.  Eventually i had to pull him out to home school so he could actually learn to write instead of just fill in the blank and take words from the "word bank" on  a work sheet and fill them in.  As for literature, where is that in PS anymore.  I was horrifyed by the quality of what they read.  In fourth grade they read an Amber Brown book!!!!!   Really!!!   With all the great literature available that is just pathetic. 



Both my kids are now in a private school so that they could get an education.  In fifth grade my son is reading Sherlock Holmes.  The vocaulary is amazing, the stories are compelling, the characters are wonderful, a truly engaging event.  And no, i am not wealthy, as a family we are making tremendous financial sacrifices to have our kids in a school where they will have a chance at a real education.



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sally310
by on Mar. 1, 2013 at 9:30 PM
1 mom liked this

Its great to hear that your kids have had a great experience at a public school.  Believe me I wish we were in an area that could provide good free education.  I toughed it out for  a long time hoping that our district would address the needs of both my children, but they did not.  In fact, many parents are very upset and disgusted with the district and would love to get out, if only they could see their houses.

I am surprised you are so hostile, just because you had a good experience does not mean that public schools are great, just that yours was.  I had a bad experience and so have a lot of people.  so just giving my opinion.  Some special ed kids do get an education in PS, but probably most do not.  A lot of parents claim to be "happy" with what their kids are getting, simply because they belive the "experts" at the school who tell them their kids will never be able to learn anything.  I went through this with my daughter.  The school would not teach her to read, write or do math, because in their opinion kids like her just could not do it and anyway they said by 4th grade she would just stop learning anyway, and this was in 1st grade!!!   So maybe you can understand why i had to get my kids out of that.  I think it is always difficult for people like you to understand when their own children have done well.  Maybe your kids do not have any learning disablilities.   The system might be ok if you have typical kids with no issues.

Kris_PBG
by on Mar. 1, 2013 at 9:38 PM
You think I'm hostile? How so?

I'm not the one putting down the entire public school system based on my personal experiences - you are.

Your experiences are yours and may well be valid. That speaks to your schools you have had experiences in, not all schools.

I said nothing negative about any type of schooling. I simply said, that basically, any time wide sweeping statements about a large, complex and diverse system are made, there is rarely anything constructive can be taken from those statements.






Quoting sally310:

Its great to hear that your kids have had a great experience at a public school.  Believe me I wish we were in an area that could provide good free education.  I toughed it out for  a long time hoping that our district would address the needs of both my children, but they did not.  In fact, many parents are very upset and disgusted with the district and would love to get out, if only they could see their houses.


I am surprised you are so hostile, just because you had a good experience does not mean that public schools are great, just that yours was.  I had a bad experience and so have a lot of people.  so just giving my opinion.  Some special ed kids do get an education in PS, but probably most do not.  A lot of parents claim to be "happy" with what their kids are getting, simply because they belive the "experts" at the school who tell them their kids will never be able to learn anything.  I went through this with my daughter.  The school would not teach her to read, write or do math, because in their opinion kids like her just could not do it and anyway they said by 4th grade she would just stop learning anyway, and this was in 1st grade!!!   So maybe you can understand why i had to get my kids out of that.  I think it is always difficult for people like you to understand when their own children have done well.  Maybe your kids do not have any learning disablilities.   The system might be ok if you have typical kids with no issues.


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sally310
by on Mar. 1, 2013 at 10:48 PM
1 mom liked this

I was wondering exactly what you meant by "great schooling options"   One of the huge problems we ran into was the complete lack of options.  We were stuck with our district, which was exceptionally bad.  If i had the option to go to another district i would certainly had tried that. 

How do options work where you are?  What state are you in by the way?   Can you just send your kids to a different district.  We left NJ because that was not possible.  I feel that is one of the big problems, if  students could transfer to a better district it may provide more incentive to improve as they would look bad.  There was a charter school in the next town but the waiting list was years and because we were not in their area we could not get any priority even though i appealed to them to get my daughter in. 

I know my opinion is jaded because of our terrible experience, but just having a good experience does not make the system right, just right for you.  I feel that we saw the worst of it because both my kids had problems that were not addressed, but many other kids suffer too.  There is also the bullying and violence to deal with.  As i said in the district we left there was a huge majority of very unhappy parents but nothing got done because the teachers are protected by the unions and tenure.  We all hoped Chris Christie was going to be able to reform education in NJ, but even he was beaten by the unions.

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