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

Sunday, March 03, 2013

More from Susan O on Common Core

    What the Press Leaves out

    Susan Ohanian Analysis:
    Former police headquarters bureau chief at the Times, Al Baker, is still covering the crime scene but now seems to be concentrating on education matters, both city and state. Since he's not letting on that these activities are crimes, I'll fill in some gaps. And I'd emphasize that the crimes represented below are not unique to New York. They apply to schools in every state that has accepted the Common Core straightjacket.

    So many red flags go off with this piece that it's hard to know where to begin. Hold on to your hat!

    New York City is spending millions and millions on Common Core-aligned textbooks and workbooks. Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the state's Board of Regents and someone always eager to represent the Billionaire's Club view of school reform, sneers that New York City doesn't need to spend this money because the State is providing free lessons viaEngage NY.

    Well, everybody likes a bargain, so let's take a look at Engage NY, the creation of the New York State Department of Education. They produce Data Driven Instruction and Inquiryand Common Core Curriculum & Assessments. I say proceed at your own risk into the Data Driven religious experience (that's what it is: His religion at best is an anxious wish...--Thomas Carlyle.

    For the K-2 Common Core curriculum, Engage NY uses materials from E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge storehouse: 
    1. Nursery Rhymes and Fables (18 instructional days)
    2. Five Senses (16 instructional days)
    3. Stories (15 instructional days)
    4. Plants (16 instructional days)
    5. Farms (14 instructional days)
    6. Kings and Queens (14 instructional days)
    7. Seasons and Weather (14 instructional days)
    8. Colonial Towns (17 instructional days)
    9. Taking Care of the Earth (15 instructional days)

    Grade 1
    1. Different Lands, Similar Stories* (11 instructional days)
    2. Fables and Stories* (16 instructional days)
    3. The Human Body (14 instructional days)
    4. Early World Civilizations (21 days)
    5. Early American Civilizations (19 instructional days)
    6. Astronomy (14 instructional days)
    7. Animals and Habitats (20 instructional days)
    8. Fairy Tales (16 instructional days)
    9. History of the Earth (16 instructional days)

    Grade 2
    1. Fighting for a Cause* (18 instructional days)
    2. Fairy Tales and Tall Tales* (12 instructional days)
    3. Cycles of Nature* (17 instructional days)
    4. Insects* (14 instructional days)
    5. Ancient Greek Civilizations (16 instructional days)
    6. Greek Myths (15 instructional days)
    Introduction to Greek Myths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
    Lesson 1 The Twelve Gods of Mount Olympus . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
    Lesson 2 Prometheus and Pandora . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
    Lesson 3 Demeter and Persephone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
    Lesson 4 Arachne the Weaver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
    Lesson 5 Theseus and the Minotaur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
    Lesson 6 Daedalus and Icarus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
    Pausing Point 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
    Lesson 7 Hercules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
    Lesson 8 Hercules and the Nemean Lion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
    Lesson 9 Hercules and Atlas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102
    Lesson 10 Oedipus and the Riddle of the Sphinx. . . . . . . . . . . . .114
    Lesson 11 Atalanta and the Golden Apples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
    Pausing Point 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
    Domain Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142
    Instructional Objectives for Greek Myths
    The following chart contains all of the Core Content Objectives and Language Arts Objectives for this domain, broken down by lesson. [emphasis added]

  • Understand that the ancient Greeks worshipped many gods and goddesses

  • Understand that the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece were believed to be immortal and to have supernatural powers unlike humans

  • Identify the twelve main gods and goddesses in Greek mythology

  • Identify Mount Olympus as the place believed by the ancient Greeks to be the home of the gods

  • Demonstrate familiarity with particular Greek myths

  • Identify the elements of characters, plot, and supernatural beings and events in particular Greek myths

  • 7. Charlotte's Web, Part 1 *(15 instructional days)
    8. Charlottes' Web, Part II* (15 instructional days)
    9. Immigration (15 instructional days)

    For Grades 4-5, Engage New York has chosen Expeditionary Learning to supply the Common Core templates. Expeditionary Learning was a favorite of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, receiving $12.6 million in 2003 to help create 14 small public secondary schools throughout the United States. In 2007 they received an additional $11.1 million for the creation of nine more small high schools. In 2010 Expeditionary Learning expanded its model to include Turnaround Schools, which they note on their website, is "a major focus of federal education policy." Now they're on the Common Core bandwagon and, I have to say, doing better than most purveyors of the formula. But note the praise is faint: I come to bury the Common Core purveyors, not to praise them.

    On their website Expeditionary Learning says participants in their professional development hands-on workshops, participants tackle the "what" and the "how" of implementing the new standards with rigor and quality.

    Note what's missing here:


    It's a question we're not supposed to ask.

    Although I strongly object to the very formulaic response to literature regimen that Expeditionary Learning puts students through for every text, their selections and connections seem much livelier than those of Core Knowledge. I'll just add that they are big on graphic organizers, offering 11. This one caught my eye.

    Engage NY has ceded Grades 6-12 to Odell Education, and theirinterminable deconstruction of Steve Job's graduation speech at Stanford. I wanted to scream in agony as I read the directions. I don't want to imagine what students would do. And thus, echo chambers across the U. S. bring home David Coleman's formula for preparing future workers for the Global Economy:

    Students independently read the first paragraph of the speech's text and answer the question, "What important detail do we learn about the speaker as he begins his commencement address? What sentence(s) in the paragraph tell you this information?"

    After all students have finished reading the paragraph, lead a brief discussion in which students volunteer something they learned about the speaker. List their answers on the board, checking those that are repeated. Go back to the list and ask this question: "What words or sentences in the paragraph tell you this information?" For each of the answers, having students read the "evidence" that led them to their answer. Do not worry here about labelling [sic]their answers "right" or "wrong", but ask them to see if what they think they know is confirmed as they listen to the speech. 

    Sixth graders will get a refresher course in Greek myths withD'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. Seventh graders get The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and to Kill a Mockingbird moves to eighth grade.

    Knowing what they will do to it, I don't give a s _ _ t which grade "gets"Mockingbird.

    In a spirit of grandiose and silly ecumenism, 12th graders get Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural Address & Hilary Clinton's APEC Women and the Economy Summit Address. Some will recognize the irony:APEC played a heavy hand in getting us into this educational morass.

    Remember David Coleman's advice on the Council of Great City Schools ($8,496,854 from Gates Foundation) video--to students who experience learning difficulties and sit in a class being dragged through officially designated "complex text": "You're going to practice it again and again and again and again. . . so there's a chance you can finally do that level of work." It sounds like a very bizarre application of Gladwell's 10,000-Hour Rule. Coleman decries offering students with learning problems alternate resources, insisting that repetition will clear up difficulties with the mandatory complex text. And teachers are told kids must start early with complexity. In Three Arguments Against Whole Language and Why They are Wrong, Stephen Krashen was way ahead of his time in presenting a scenario on prenatal phonemic awareness.

    And now Engage New York, paid for by New York state taxpayers who were never asked what they want for their children, echoes Coleman in emphasizing that resources:

    are planned and developed according to the principles ofUniversal Design for Learning (UDL), and are able to be used by:
    all students, including:

  • English language learners (ELL)

  • Students with disabilities (SWD)

  • Accelerated learners

  • Students achieving and performing below grade level (up to two grade levels behind through grade 8, and up to four grade levels behind in high school, grades 9-12).

  • A positive note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation claims to have never given any money to the Universal Design for Learning. Not-so-Positive: the AFT is listed in the Ambassador and Partner section.

    Pause a moment and reflect on the loss of childhood, the loss of education for the common good, the loss of David Hawkin's bird in the window. . .

    Now, move on to the New York Times version of what all this means. . . . . .

    New State Academic Standards Are Said to Require $56 Million Outlay for City's Schools

    By Al Baker

    It will cost about $56 million to buy new textbooks and other materials to help New York City public school students meet rigorous academic standards adopted by most states, city officials announced at a news conference on Thursday.

    The costs are not unexpected, because the state signed on for the so-called Common Core standards in 2010. But they drew a round of scrutiny at a time of austere budgeting, particularly as the city is facing a possible decline in state and federal aid.

    Even before the formal announcement, Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the state's Board of Regents, said that though city school officials "can spend their money as they choose fit," the state was providing "free curriculum" online, at engageny.org, for interested educators and others.

    Of the city's plan, she added, "I'm sure it's not inexpensive."

    Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city teachers' union, issued a statement saying the costs of the new materials concerned him, and he questioned "how well they will actually match the Common Core standards, and whether the new curricula and their accompanying materials will be ready for the start of the new school year."

    Adopted by 45 states, the Common Core sets a national benchmark for what students should learn in English and math. It does not detail all of the curriculums students should learn, but is intended to help them build skills for success.

    From April 16 to 24, children in kindergarten through eighth grade across New York will take state standardized tests in English and math that, for the first time, are based on the Common Core standards. Such tests for high school students will begin next year.

    For their part, city school officials said the $56 million would cover the costs of buying new English and math materials for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. As a point of comparison, they said the city had spent $13.3 million this year on new math and English materials and on books for classroom libraries.

    The $56 million estimate is based on an expectation that 70 percent of schools will adopt the curriculums the city's Education Department is recommending, the officials said. They said that while downloading state curriculums was free, the costs of acquiring workbooks and texts would bring the cost close to the city's $56 million estimate.

    The city will procure the materials through five vendors, including the state's vendor and Pearson, a British publishing and education company, said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's chief academic officer.

    Mr. Polakow-Suransky and other city school officials emphasized that the money would come not only from city taxpayers, but also from a state fund that helps pay for textbooks.

    The last adoption of new literacy and math curriculums was about a decade ago, city school officials said.
    — Al Baker with extensive Ohanian notes
    New York Times
    March 01, 2013

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