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

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Is the common core "an extraordinary opportunity" for libraries?

Response to Publishers’ Weekly: Posted on

“…it is impossible, unnecessary, and harmful for a small group of individuals to predetermine and impose upon all students the same set of knowledge and skills and expect all students progress at the same pace (if the students don't, it is the teachers' and schools' fault).” Yong Zhao

“For Libraries, the Common Core Presents Extraordinary Opportunity” presents a very incomplete view of the common core. Those parts of the common core that seem favorable to libraries do not require the common core. Left unsaid is that there is no evidence that establishing national standards and tests will help anybody, and plenty of evidence that the common core will damage not only libraries but all aspects of education.

The common core requires that all students be connected to the internet in order to take the tests that enforce the standards. This represents an investment of billions. New York City and the State of Florida have budged about a half a billion each just to set up interrnet connections for all students, and you can be sure that as soon as the infrastructure is in place, it will be declared obsolete. And you can be sure that the initial results will show no improvement, and the “solution” will be national tests 2.0. The result will be a permanent boondoggle for the testing and computer companies, the .01%, all from our tax dollars.

The amount of testing planned is staggering, more than ever has been seen on the this planet. And as librarians know, often the testing is done in the school library.

In addition to the consistent finding that standards and tests do not raise achievement, they will bleed funding for areas that need financial support. It is well-established that the major “problem” with American education is poverty: 23.1% of our children live in poverty, all the second-highest percentage among 34 economically advanced countries. High-scoring Finland has less than 5.3% child poverty. Poverty means poor diet, poor health care, and little access to books; all have a devastating effect on school performance. This is where we should invest money: We need to protect our children from the impact of poverty, with expanded food programs, better medical care (e.g. school nurses, dental and optical services) and of course much more investment in school libraries and librarians.

The results of several studies, including one I participated in, show the school library can make up for the effects of poverty on reading achievement. While the evidence supporting libraries and librarians is constantly growing and getting stronger, public and school libraries are losing funding, And to repeat, there is no evidence supporting the common core, and no plans to do pilot studies.

Some sources:

New York CIty budget: New York Times, "In city schools, tech spending to rise despite cuts," March 30, 2011.
Florida budget: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/time-hardwire-florida-schools-senate-ed-chairman-says

Krashen, S. How much testing? http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/25/stephen-­‐ krashen-­‐how-­‐much-­‐testing/
There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/. OECD. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18. http://www.aasa.org/jsp.aspx.

Levels of child poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential; Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.

Impact of libraries: Krashen, S. 2011. Protecting students against the effects of poverty: Libraries. New England Reading Association Journal 46 (2): 17-21.

Library funding: Kelley, Michael. “LJ’s Budget Survey: Bottoming Out?” Library. Journal. 136.1 (2011): 28031.


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