"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, February 27, 2012

Common core standards/national tests = a classic grassroots movement?

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
“The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally-imposed is a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy. The Common Core academic standards were both developed and adopted by the states ...” https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-us-secretary-education-arne-duncan-1

How can anybody doubt this? The Common Core/National tests movement was a classic spontaneous grass roots movement. Who can forget the many meetings, the sit-ins, the marches and the signs carried by thousands of teachers, students, and parents all over the United States: "Please sir, more tests!" "TESTPREP = EDUCATION!"  "Give us standards! ONE SIZE FITS ALL!" "THE HELL WITH PIAGET" "Ours is not to reason why ...."


  1. My department chair is moving people around next year--away from familiar courses--because she thinks she will get us to do Common Core better that way.

    She's been absorbed by the borg...

  2. Using standardized tests/testing to evaluate the public schools is fraught with error, obfuscations and falsehoods and therefore invalid. The harm to students that "grades", rankings and/or labels cause is immeasurable and unmeasurable but, unfortunately, very real. The main logical problem being that it is impossible to "quantify" a "quality" and learning comes under the category of a "quality" of an individual.

    Noel Wilson in "Educational Standards and the Problem of Error" (1997-to be found at Educational Policy Analysis Archives of Arizona State University) has completely destroyed the concepts of educational standards and standardized testing by showing the multiple (he identifies 13) errors involved in the process. Since the study was published it has received only about 17,000 hits. Noel also informed me that only about six people have contacted him about the study and that there has been no professional rebuttal by psychometricians or anyone for that matter. I advise anyone interested in public education to read and understand Wilson's work. Also a more recent article about standards and standardized testing by Wilson is "A Little Less than Valid: An Essay Review" to be found in Education Review-A Journal of Book Reviews V10 #5.

    Students "internalize" (what Foucault calls subjectification or what Hacking terms the "looping effect") those labels and, in essence, "become" the grade, label, etc. . . . Would you be encouraged to continue on in a situation (schools) where you were constantly being told you are below average, not proficient, or worse yet a "failure"? What we do to young students in this process is abhorrent. And it is certainly not our (public schools) constitutional charge to sort and separate students for the universities and the business world.

    My take on standardized testing is this: Standardarized testing is to learning as a McDonald's meal is to gourmet cooking.

    Training and testing usually leads to shallow regurgitated facts and credentially whereas teaching and learning should lead to facts and knowledge which, with experience, hopefully leads to wisdom. We train animals and should be in the process of "teaching" humans. I do not believe in "raising student achievement"-it's a false paradigm that promotes an end product that has no verifiable validity. I do believe that our job as public school teachers is to increase student "learning" which is the process and not end product. When we quit learning we begin the process of dying.

    By confusing and conflating business language of "efficient vs inefficient" with what should be political language of "just/unjust" and/or "right/wrong" practices and by viewing public education as if it were a production process with input/output language we do a disservice to our students and cause them harm.

    One tires of hearing all the public school bashing by those outside the profession who, in reality, know nothing about "true" and "good" education. And that includes A. Duncan who has absolutely no teaching experience or M. Rhee who was only in the class room for a few years. It takes a minimum of ten years to become a "master" teacher. Most current administrators and the vast majority of those who criticize public education haven't taught that long or have never taught and are completely, yes completely, ignorant and hubristic and do not deserve the time of day as they know not of which they speak.