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Posts Tagged ‘CCSS’

“Knowledge Building”, Like Test Scores, Correlates with Poverty

December 13, 2018 Comments off

Forbes education writer Natalie Wexler’s recent article, “Why Knowledge Building Curricula Matter More Than School Choice” overlooks several fundamental realities. Contrasting the positions of “choice” critic Diane Ravitch and Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the pro-charter Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Ms. Wexler analyzes school choice to the choice one can make when purchasing toothpaste. She asserts that such a choice is bogus because:

…the vast majority of schools—especially at the elementary level—offer the same dangerously flawed approach, regardless of whether they’re charters or not.”

And what is that “dangerously flawed approach?

Government ratings focus on annual reading and math scores, just as the toothpaste ratings focused on yearly cavity rates. Schools can sometimes boost test scores in the elementary years by focusing on comprehension “skills.” But, as cognitive scientists have long known—and as few educators, education professors and education reformers are aware—the most important factor in comprehension is background knowledge. In high school, when the classwork and the tests start assuming more knowledge and vocabulary, things fall apart.

Kids with highly educated parents arrive at school with more knowledge and vocabulary and continue acquiring it outside school… (and) that enables them to get higher test scores, because they’re better able to understand the reading passages. But their schools get the credit, regardless of whether they actually provided the knowledge.

In Ms. Wexler’s world, the lack of a curriculum based on knowledge-building is the problem, a problem that she believes is slowly being addressed:

The good news is that several elementary curricula that do focus on building knowledge have recently been developed, and an increasing number of schools—in both the charter and traditional public school sectors—are adopting them. But they still constitute only a small fraction of the total, and school rating systems, which place primary weight on test scores and little or none on curriculum, don’t help parents find them.

But Ms. Wexler’s world, like that of E.D. Hirsch, the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation, poverty is an immaterial exogenous factor and test scores that measure “core knowledge” replace those that (presumably) measure academic achievement. And that world, devoid of the realities of poverty and politics, has nothing to do with the real world public education lives in.

Ms. Wexler concludes her essay with this analysis of the school choice debate:

I agree with Pondiscio that it’s unfair for wealthier parents to have the ability to choose a school while lower-income parents don’t. And I agree with Ravitch that charter schools have drained resources from traditional public schools and made it harder for many to succeed. But I also think that, given the far more fundamental problems with our education system, those issues are largely beside the point.

Unfortunately, by viewing the “fundamental problem with our education system” as being the lack of a curriculum based on “knowledge building” Ms. Wexler overlooks the REAL fundamental problems, which are the underlying disparities in preparedness for school caused by poverty and the overriding desire to use standardized testing to measure “school effectiveness”.

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A Good News Update on Arizona Standards: State Board Rejects State Superintendent’s Fundamentalist “Science” Standards

October 24, 2018 Comments off

In an earlier blog post I wrote that Arizona seemed poised to adopt a set of “science” standards advocated by the State Superintendent, Diane Douglas, that would effectively block the instruction of evolution and climate change. In a heartening turn of events, AZCentral writer Lily Altavena reports that the State Board has rejected Ms. Douglas’ recommendations:

The Arizona State Board of Education approved revised science and history standards on Monday, shrugging off outgoing State Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggestion to replace all the standards with a set from a conservative college in Michigan.

The science standards include edits recommended by the Arizona Science Teachers Association after an outcry over how the draft standards addressed evolution. Those edits emphasize that “The unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution.”

The revised standards will be used by K-12 public district and charter schools statewide. Their approval received thunderous applause from educators and education advocates sitting in the boardroom.

It IS encouraging to see that democracy is working in the curriculum review process, but discouraging to imagine that in 2018 we would be engaged in a debate over the merits of evolution.

Oh, and it wasn’t just the SCIENCE standards that were under review; the SOCIAL STUDIES standards were also on the agenda and Ms. Douglas also wanted her state to use the Hillsdale College standards as the basis for curriculum objectives in Arizona. There was at least one problem with those standards, which were also unanimously rejected by the State Board:

The vote followed a slew of public comment from parents and educators worried that the Hillsdale standards, if adopted, would exclude the study of world religions. There are more references to Christianity in the Hillsdale standards than in Arizona’s draft standards

Fortunately, this is the last time Ms. Douglas will have an opportunity to promote her notions about curriculum standards, as she was defeated in the State GOP primary. But as the door closes behind her, she offered this:

She said she considers the revised standards indoctrination “in some areas,” adding that the new standards don’t go into the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.

“Show me where any scientist has proven or replicated that life came from non-living matter or that, if you would, in the example we see in the museums, that man evolved from an ape — there’s no proof to that,” she said. “That’s all I’m saying to our teachers: Let’s teach our children all those different things and let them study that.”

Ms. Altavena added this footnote at the end of her article:

The vast majority of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science — 98 percent —  believe in human evolution, according to Pew. About six in 10 Americans believe humans have evolved.

Evidently the 40% who DON’T believe in evolution voted in large numbers when Ms. Douglas was running for office… but fortunately for school children in Arizona the State Board listened to the scientists.

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Arizona: Outgoing State Chief Wants to Adopt Far-Right Christian Standards to Replace State Standards

September 25, 2018 Comments off

More evidence that ESSA’s move to allow states to set standards is deeply flawed. If these standards are combined with high stakes tests for graduation we will be turning out a generation of mis-educated students in several states. The Common Core had its own deep flaws, but if public education is to contribute to a common good it needs to be based on a common set of standards. 

via Arizona: Outgoing State Chief Wants to Adopt Far-Right Christian Standards to Replace State Standards

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Texas Curriculum Illustrates Need for Uniform Curriculum, ESPECIALLY in Civics

September 20, 2018 Comments off

Tuesday morning I read two articles that taken together underscore the lack of cohesiveness in instruction that is occurring in our country thanks in large measure to the USDOE’s refusal to impose some kind of standards in terms of civics instruction.

One article, by Alyson Klein in Education Week, told of Betsy DeVos’ “strong words on suppression of speech and the sad state of civics education. Her remarks on free speech hewed close to the MAGA line of thinking that liberals are denying conservatives an opportunity to speak freely and openly on campuses and, as a result, there is a diminishment in the free flow of ideas… a concept that seems especially preposterous given the ability of the plutocrats to pay for as much speech as they wish. Her remarks on civics education, though, drew my attention:

DeVos said that schools need to teach students to engage with others with whom they might disagree. And she said this needs to begin at the K-12 level, where she said civics education hasn’t been a priority.

“It hasn’t been a focus. We’ve been focusing a lot on math, science and reading, which are all, of course, very important subjects,” DeVos said in remarks at the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan interactive museum. “But I think it’s really important that students learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.

On the very same day this article appeared in Education Week, Truthdig published an article by Naomi La Chance reporting on the Texas Board of Education’s decision to eliminate certain information from the social studies curriculum because, presumably they are unimportant for students to know and understand. The information in question?

The Texas State Board of Education, a 15-member group that has been of great importance to the religious right since the 1960s, voted Friday to revise the public school social studies curriculum, including the removal of Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller.

To speed up a third-grade unit on civic responsibility, the board opted to remove Keller—an activist, member of the Socialist Party, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and the first blind and deaf person with a bachelor’s degree. The work group wrote, “Helen Keller does not best represent the concept of citizenship,” giving her a score of seven out of 20 in considering her usefulness to the school curriculum. Removing her would save 40 minutes, it calculated.

By contrast, U.S. senators and representatives from Texas and “Texans who have been president” all received a rating of 20 out of 20. Students as young as kindergarten are expected to “identify the role of the U.S. free enterprise system.”

For high school classes, the board suggested removing discussion about opportunities and obstacles for women and members of ethnic minorities because, according to the board, “American patriotism does not inspire obstacles for women and ethnic minorities.”

I imagine Ms. DeVos will be perfectly OK with these changes, because States should have the right to define their own curriculum goals. But I want to know how it will be possible for students in Texas to “…learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.” without knowing the name of the most recent Presidential candidate for the Democratic party, a first lady who fought hard for women and minorities, and an iconic figure who inspired hundreds of handicapped children to see that there were no limits on what they could accomplish.

This is what ESSA hath wrought… and it will not help children everywhere learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.

 

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Another Sign of the ESSA Apocalypse: States Adopt Science Standards that Contradict Reality

February 7, 2018 Comments off

I am no fan of the common core, but I do believe that Bill Gates understood the need to nationalize standards in order to ensure that every child in the nation was learning a uniform set of facts. From my perspective, it is understandable that some topics might be contentious when trying to achieve a consensus. The causes of the Civil War, for example, are nuanced and complicated and agreeing on what to present to 5th graders on that topic might lead to heated disputes. But legislatures have no rational basis to overturn scientific consensus… and that is what the Idaho legislature did last year in response to the Heartland Institute’s desire to change the facts about global warming. As a result, the curriculum director for the state crafted a set of standards that thread the needle on the issue, making it certain that Idaho children will learn about global warming even though they might not learn the real causes of it. NYTimes reporter Livia Albeck-Ripka writes:

The battle started in early 2016, when Idaho was working to update its decade-old science standards for kindergarten through 12th grade, which outside education groups said were out of date. Lawmakers rejected a new set of standards, which were closely modeled after national guidelines developed by a consortium of states and science organizations and included information on climate change, saying more input from the public was needed.

Last year, the House education committee accepted the new standards, but only after scrubbing five sections related to climate change. The passages about climate change were “surgically removed,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, which monitors anti-science legislation.

Now, (Scott Cook, the director of academics at the Idaho State Department of Education, who helps lead a committee of teachers, parents and scientists urging that climate change be included in the standards) has reworked those passages in an effort to win approval from lawmakers. The revised standards include natural causes of climate change alongside those driven by humans, and, in response to lawmakers’ requests, they emphasize potential solutions to climate change.

“The committee took a true course between the rocks on one side and the whirlpool on the other,” Mr. Cook said, describing how it had been difficult to strike a balance between language that was scientifically accurate but was satisfying to lawmakers. Where the original standards placed a stronger emphasis on human activity as the primary cause of climate change, the revised standards note that both “human activities” and “natural processes” can affect the Earth’s temperature.

“Although this is not exactly untrue, to say this in the context of a discussion of ‘current changes in climate’ is to suggest a significant role of natural activities in current climate change, which is misleading,” Mr. Branch said in an email. Still, he said he hoped the revised standards would be approved.

Historians could argue over the root causes of the Civil War, but there are some hard cold facts that are unalterable: the dates of battles, the generals who led their respective troops, and the ultimate victor. But when it comes to science, there IS no debate over the existence and cause of global warming except on the fringes. Those causes may well be an inconvenient truth and they may be championed by environmentalists who tend to be “liberal”, but the causes are unarguable— except in legislatures where denial seems to be the order of the day.

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Proof that a Blind Squirrel Will Occasionally Find a Nut: Betsy DeVos’ View of Bush and Obama “Reform” is Spot on… BUT…

January 26, 2018 Comments off

Readers of this blog know that I am no fan of Betsy DeVos, but I must acknowledge that her assessment of the Bush and Obama administration’s results is on the mark….and this headline summarizes her point well:

Nothing Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush did in education reform really worked

As Valerie Strauss reported in a blog post last week in the Washington Post, Ms. DeVos “…delivered her first speech of 2018 and flatly declared that school reform efforts under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had not worked…” Had she stopped there she would have won my unequivocal praise for her insights. But she went on a little longer and, in doing so, demonstrated her lack of understanding about “reform”. in examining the two administrations, she stated:

We saw two presidents [George W. Bush and Obama] from different political parties and philosophies take two different approaches. Federally mandated assessments. Federal money. Federal standards. All originated in Washington, and none solved the problem. Too many of America’s students are still unprepared.

This is wrong on two counts. The approaches the two administrations took were identical… and both came from the misguided belief from the hinterlands that schools could only be improved if they were standardized like cars or computer software.

She also saw fit to characterize the standardized-test obsessed DOE as “a giant nod to union bosses”, none of whom, to the best of my knowledge, favor the “reform” endorsed by BOTH political parties.

Ms. Strauss’ post includes the speech in it’s entirety, but focusses on the points Ms. DeVos DIDN’T make but should have.

  • The market driven “choice” model of reform Ms. DeVos favors had not improved any schools anywhere
  • The charter schools Ms. DeVos favors provide less opportunities for teacher-led initiatives than the traditional “government schools” she disdains
  • The Common Core is NOT dead: it’s been effectively re-branded and re-inforced at the state level because when ESSA gave states greater latitude they did not seize the opportunity. Instead the great majority of states adopted test-driven metrics that are based on— you guessed it— the Common Core!

As is often the case with Ms. DeVos and her fellow reformers, they get the “bullet points” highlighting the flaws of public education correct. Who could disagree with this statement?

Our children deserve better than the 19th century assembly-line approach. They deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. Every student deserves a customized, self-paced and challenging life-long learning journey. Schools should be open to all students — no matter where they’re growing up or how much their parents make.

That means no more discrimination based upon Zip code or socio-economic status. All means all.

But who could agree that the solution implied in the next paragraph, that deregulated market-based reform is the way to improve schools?

It’s about educational freedom! Freedom from Washington mandates. Freedom from centralized control. Freedom from a one-size-fits-all mentality. Freedom from “the system.”

Let me translate what Ms. DeVos is really saying. “Washington mandates” means those pesky desegregation orders. “Centralized control” means requiring all children to learn how democracy works and how to think independently. “One-size-fits-all” means providing children in less affluent areas with the same funding levels as children in wealthy areas. “The system” in this case means government funding and regulation that ensures equal opportunity for all…. and the provision of revenues through a fair and just system of taxation.

 

 

This Just In: Common Core Benchmarks Unattainable in ANY Country in the World

January 18, 2018 Comments off

The National Superintendents Roundtable and Horace Mann League released a report yesterday that included several findings that contradict the “failing schools” narrative set forth decades ago by the Reagan administration and built upon by every administration thereafter. The primary take away from the report is this:

Globally, in just about every nation where it is possible to compare student performance with our national benchmarks, the vast majority of students cannot demonstrate their competence because the bars are set unreasonably high.

And as the report notes at the outset, this inability for students to demonstrate competence is intentional:

One motivation for establishing the NAEP benchmarks was the desire to demonstrate that “large numbers of students were failing,” according to a former New York Times national education correspondent.

A rushed process for developing the benchmarks was adopted by the policy body governing NAEP – despite experts’ objections – in part because a prominent member of the policy body acknowledged he was “fed up with technical experts.”

It isn’t difficult to adjust cut scores on tests to “prove” students are improving OR failing… and it isn’t difficult for “think tanks” to generate “benchmarks” that have some official seal of approval that is untethered to the realities of child development or the realities of teaching students from challenging backgrounds. And, unfortunately, it isn’t difficult to persuade the public that their public schools are “failing” as a result of attaining low scores on tests with impossibly high standards while implying that other nations are doing far better.

And here’s the saddest news of all: the “reformers” who want to undercut support for the institution of public schools are succeeding. According to a recent survey conducted by NPR, only 43% of the public has confidence in public schools. But educators should be heartened to know that the public has far more confidence in them than they have in Congress (8%), or either political party (29% for the GOP and 36% for the Democrats). Somewhere Ronald Reagan and his acolytes are happy, though. The voters all agree with his assertion that Government is the Problem. Our founding fathers, though, weep. Democracy counts on an electorate that supports public institutions… and the NPR survey shows that the only institution that has broad public support is… the military.