Sunday, November 17, 2013

Common Core Crackpots

I will probably attend Dryden's "family information night" about the Common Core, presented by their new Director of Curriculum & Instruction, although I could probably present it just as easily as he can. I will attend to offer some support, because something tells me that it's mostly going to be attended by Common Core Crackpots, the very sort that created a successful plan to shout down the Commissioner as he opened up public forums to present NYS's rollout of the standards.

There's a tremendous amount of prepackaged political blather around the CCSS, and I can't remember the last time things got this vicious over an educational change. To be fair, the states never should have rolled out new testing at the same time, and they never should have tied teacher evaluations to the new standards. Testing and teacher evaluation are part of a federal program, No Child Left Behind. Common Core is a program designed by the states. The conflation of the two has led crackpots to squawk about a federal takeover of the schools. They seem to believe that local control existed before CCSS, which it certainly did not. State standards have existed for decades, and because of that, curricula in Buffalo and Groton are more alike than they are different. We have had a national test for decades as well; it's called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and it is given to random students across the U.S. at grades 4, 8, and 12 to benchmark states and deliver a snapshot of progress nationwide. However, because each state gets to choose its own cut score for the NAEP, a glance at the scores demonstrates that students in Massachusetts are less proficient than those in Tennessee, and those in California are less proficient than those in Mississippi. It's easy to come out smelling like a rose if you can name your own proficiency score. Meanwhile, according to an international test known as the PISA, which does not allow any nation to determine its own cut score, the U.S. ranks 17th—average in reading, and well below average in math. Which nations do best? Those with national standards that focus on solving problems and creative thinking. What do the CCSS do? Focus on solving problems and creative thinking.

Nevertheless, we are subjected to this kind of stuff, which is so riddled with prepackaged propaganda and myth that I couldn't even begin to dissect it on the IJ blog. Maybe I can do better in person. That's why I will probably attend tomorrow. It's at 6:30 PM in the auditorium, which implies that they expect at least a few people to show up.

LATER: Well, I apologize for the crackpots crack. The Director of C & I, Adam Bauchner, was brilliant about dousing all politics and just talking about the standards, differentiating them neatly from curriculum, instruction, and assessment. A quiet comment about developmental appropriateness was the only political question all night, and Bauchner fielded it with examples that clearly supported his opinion that the CCSS are appropriate right down the grades. I didn't learn anything new other than that there are in fact parents out there who just want the facts. My bad. I have clearly spent too much time online being irked by people's ignorant rants.

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