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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cigarettes : Nicotine :: Common Core Standards : High-Stakes Testing

Posted at CommonDreams.org:

Addiction to High Stakes Testing is Killing US Education

Diane Ravitch, for whom I have a great deal of respect for leading the charge against the Billionaire Boys’ Club in recent years, has written on her blog that she is agnostic on the national curriculum standards project known as the Common Core.  Ravitch reasons that
I have neither endorsed nor rejected the Common Core national standards, for one simple reason: They are being rolled out in 45 states without a field trial anywhere. How can I say that I love them or like them or hate them when I don’t know how they will work when they reach the nation’s classrooms?
Since it is common knowledge that Diane is a former Trustee of the Common Core organization, we must assume that, at one time not so long ago, she found reasons to support Common Core in 2008-2009, even before any field trial was ever possible.  Why can’t she oppose CC now, especially with her recent awakening to how things work down here on the ground, rather than up at 20,000 feet in the policy stratosphere. 
But then if I had spent years supporting policy with no research to back it up, I might be hesitant, too, to take a position on Common Core.  But I don’t think so.
My opposition to CC is not based on research or on results but, rather, on the explicit policy plan to use the Common Core as the delivery system for the same poison we have been pumping into our schools for much, much too long—high stakes testing.  We do not have to wait for field trials to understand the effects of more high-stakes “value-added” testing: more labeling of the weak as failures, more privatization, more corporate welfare school projects, more disposal of experienced teachers, more correctional officers posing as educators, more missionaries out to build their resumes and assuage their guilt with children who need the most experienced teachers, more apartheid charters run by corporations, more curriculum caste systems and “ability” grouping, less shared social and cultural capital, more competition and less collaboration among teachers, more curriculum in a box, less creative teaching, less deep learning, more homogeneity and less diversity of ideas, more social control, less autonomy and responsibility, more dependency, less ability to solve problem and think creatively, less potential to survive as a species.
Does anyone who has worked in a high position of education policy believe that the Home Office at ED is going to risk exposing their bankrupt ideas and unalterable ideology to “field trials?”  That is not going to happen.  Are we, then, supposed to wait until another ESEA is written to make this fiasco the law of the land for another decade?  Can our teachers, parents, and concerned citizens wait to see the effects of another debacle like NCLB, another generation of children miseducated?  Can our most vulnerable children be expected to continue to live under inhumane oppression masked as their deliverance from oppression?  
What will be the Chernobyl that finally shames our society into seeing the folly of waiting for doing more of the same to produce different results?  How long does it take to understand that standardized testing was designed in America to identify and segregate the weak, that testing is not about closing gaps but, rather, maintaining them?  Are we to remain blind forever, or if not, just turn away? 
I think not. 


  1. Common Core (at commoncore.org) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) are separate. Ravitch was affiliated with the former. The actual relationship between Common Core and the CCSSI is a bit complicated -- the CCSSI doesn't really support Common Core's purported goals as much as they'd like you to think. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors about what the standards actually say.

    That is, Common Core ostensibly seeks students with "an understanding of culture, the arts, history, literature, civics, and language." CCSSI isn't very strong in those areas at all.

  2. Your closing quote about what testing is really about articulates what was me deepest intuition about CCSS from the beginning. I would never have been able to express it so succinctly.

    I'm surprised we're seeing some allies begin to cave on this, since opposing it is the most important thing that social context reformers can do at this point. Once CCSS is entrenched, it will make the past dozen years seem something worthy of downright nostalgic in comparison.

    We must collectively resist Corporate Core Standards with every breath, every action, every ability we have.

  3. Anonymous2:07 AM

    ravitch, who did so much to promote education deform in its cradle, had a come-to-jesus moment just in time to lead the growing opposition. coincidence?

    i think not.

    false friends, etc.

  4. Love the analogy Jim! Been thinking lately myself about how much ed reform resembles addictive thinking. A couple of things to add for consideration, using this analogy (or is it a metaphor? :))
    -the simplest yet most challenging fact about addiction is that the addict themselves is the ONLY person who can make the change. Loved ones can stand around him or her screaming "Don't you see it???" until they're blue in the face, but its the addict who must concede to their inner most selves there is a problem. When will we collectively as a society accept that while the test makers and Common Core pushers are like the drug dealers, we are the only ones who can stop it- but nothing changes until we take the action ourselves. Why is this hard? it requires over coming fear of what will happen if we actually DO something, and long held delusional beliefs that "if i just change this..." -trying to "control" the addiction- thinking a switch from beer to wine is the solution, is not unlike thinking "we just need better high stakes tests..."
    This ed reform movement is more powerful than us in many ways-the only way OUT of this nightmare is to take responsibility ourselves for ending it, stop fooling ourselves that we can "manage it" by believing we can accept some of the initiatives "I'll only have just one...I'll switch heroine for over the counter prescriptions..." ITS ALL THE SAME THING AND IT LEADS TO THE SAME END RESULTS AND THEY ARE NOT GOOD. We must perform an act of complete abstinence and say no to ALL of it: VAM, Common Core and its attachment to HST, and myths of school choice. Its time to stop fooling ourselves. Asking the drug dealer to stop pedaling will never work. There's too much profit to be made. We're at the jumping off point where the "using habits" are leading to worse and worse consequences. This stops when WE decide to stop it.

  5. For some reason, I have always been led to believe it is unethical to conduct experiments on children. Why isn't everyone questioning this mass human trial about to take place in our public schools?