On a radio station in Oklahoma this week, radio host (and former math teacher) Pat Campbell interviewed Jamie Gass, of the Center for School Reform at the Boston-based think tank, Pioneer Institute.
They covered the sad tale of Massachusetts, which in the 1990s had risen to become the leading state in education for the entire country, and which fell because of Common Core, throwing legitimate academic success away for a chance at the Race to the Top federal grant money– a gamble which coerced the state into dropping the high, independent standards for the very mediocre Common Core.
In the interview, Jamie Gass explained that Common Core is a fulfillment of Marc Tucker’s vision for socialist education, long ago outlined in his famous “Dear Hillary” letter to Hillary Clinton.
Gass now calls states like Texas “the smart ones” for holding on to state-level control of educational standards and rejecting Common Core. He mentions that Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson signed laws long ago making sure that the federal government would stay out of local education. These are being bypassed by various means to implement the Common Core.
He also discussed the astronomical estimates of what Common Core will cost states to implement, and spoke about the low quality of the standards themselves.
The interviewer, Pat, commented that on the Common Core website, calculus is not even there. “Why would we want this?” he asked.
Gass gave as resources to listeners the following: www.pioneerinstitute.org, which has a toolbox with all the research the think tank has done, and the American Principles Project site, too, which has done a lot of work to study and expose the facts about Common Core.
Jamie Gass of Pioneer Institute spoke this week at a news conference in support of Indiana Senator Scott Schneider’s proposal to withdraw Indiana schools from the Common Core Initiative.
Senator Schneider has stated that ”Common Core nationalizes education and dumbs down Indiana’s previous academic standards.” Common Core is a program ”backed by President Barack Obama’s administration,” and ”the administration offered states an incentive to participate by tying federal grant money to the program,” the Indystar reported.
Independent sources say the Common Core makes traditional methods of teaching and learning more challenging. For example, Bill Evers, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and former U.S. assistant secretary of education for policy, attended the news conference in support of Senator Schneider’s bill.
Evers explains that the Common Core method of adding two numbers together is less useful for learners: “Normally, you start from the ones (column) and you normally start by borrowing or what’s otherwise called regrouping… There are some other ways, some alternative, not-as-good ways.”
But in a Common Core Indiana math book, children are instructed to add from the 100s column and move left-to-right.
“You can do it that way, but it’s harder to teach.”
Proponent of Common Core Larry Grau, the Indiana State Director of Democrats for Education Reform, said “Common Core doesn’t change the way things are taught.”
Larry Grau, Director of Indiana Democrats for Education Reform
Full article: http://www.indystar.com/article/20130115/NEWS05/130115032/Sen-Scott-Schneider-reintroduces-bill-withdraw-state-from-Common-Core-standards
– Love his hilarious, witty words; love his vivid, unforgettable descriptions of people and places; love his improbable plot twists; love the Christian soul of his stories.
The Colton High School English Department, under the old, higher-than-common-core English standards, used to teach Dickens’ “Great Expectations” year after year to ninth graders at Colton High school –when I was a brand new teacher there in the 1990s. I hadn’t read the novel before I taught it. It was, unfortunately, not on the recommended reading list of the high school I’d attended in Florida.
But reading and re-reading “Great Expectations” so many times, as I taught the novel, I really fell in love with the book. This love I gained also persuaded some students, mostly against their will at first, to love that novel, too. It was fun.
But now, that seems to be over.
According to Pioneer Institute, the Boston-based thinktank, Charles Dickens literature is going away. High school literature reading lists for Common Core standards allow for very few British writers. Shakespeare’s on. Dickens is off. Why? There’s no room when you have to make room for informational texts that include Presidential Executive Orders and Insulation manuals. Dickens, gone from US education? It’s beyond ridiculous.
“While the brilliance of Dickens’ novels… will live on, they’re on the endangered list in America’s public schools…. Shakespeare is one of the very few British writers named in the nationalized English standards… [W]atching “A Christmas Carol” on television may be kids’ only exposure to the magic of Dickens’ characters.
… Dickens’ works have instructed generations of novelists and schoolchildren around the world. His characters capture the spectrum of vices and virtues found in human nature: Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Pip, Estella, Miss Havisham, David Copperfield… many of these cleverly named characters speak the most enduring lines in the English language… Our children must read Dickens to grasp the universality of the human condition, compassion for human suffering, and the reality of human heroism… When the Ghost of Christmas Present comes to visit Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” he shows Scrooge two destitute children.
“This boy is Ignorance,” the Ghost says. “This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased…” Could there be a clearer Dickensian omen for the price our country will pay if American public education turns its back on great literature?”
Well, I haven’t been back to Colton High school for many years. But I have read “Great Expectations” on my own again.
I learned that there’s a new sign outside Colton High School today. It looks like this:
I’m assuming that “Commited To High Standards” means bamboozled by Common Core, which doesn’t actually give high standards at all, but which dumps classic literature by the wayside in favor of informational texts, and which dumps cursive, and which dumps traditional math in favor of fuzzy math, and which does not allow any parent, teacher or principal to alter the national standards in any way. (Why? Because the NGA/CCSSO copyrighted the standards and the US Dept. of Education hijacked them; Obama now claims he persuaded states to adopt them.)
When Dickens gets dropped because it’s not on the “rigorous high standards” train, the concept of what makes “high standards” has become fuzzy indeed.
Please, take your children to see “A Christmas Carol”. Stuff a copy of a Dickens novel or an audio book into a Christmas stocking. Keep Charles Dickens alive in the hearts of American children.
(This one Impact, a Heber, Utah radio show, with Bob Wren and Paul Royall interviewing Renee Braddy and me (Christel).
(This one’s Professor John Seddon, speaking to California State University faculty on why they will ruin education if they use Sir Michael Barber’s “Deliverology” methodology, which harmed the UK.)
This one’s Sir Michael Barber, speaking at the August 2012 Education Summit about how education reform is a global, not a local, control issue; and that every child in every country should learn exactly the same thing, and that all learning in every land should be underpinned by one “ethic,” that of environmental sustainability. See 2:55- 5:30 at least.
(This one’s me speaking to the Heber City Council about “Communities That Care” as a federally controlled, top-down, agenda-laden program we don’t want in Heber.
(This one is Jenni White of Oklahoma’s ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) being interviewed by the three moms about P-20 councils, data collection via schools, and common core.)
(This one’s Jenni White’s presentation about Common Core to Oklahoma legislature)
This article is worth reading in full. Posted here is just an excerpted version:
Is top-ranked Massachusetts messing with education success?
Massachusetts public schools produce students who are top in the nation in reading and math. Here’s what the state did to get there, and here’s why its shift to the new Common Core standards worries some experts.
Heidi Stevens recalls the day that got her thinking about uprooting her family from California to move to Massachusetts. Frolicking with her boys at a playground in 1998, she wished some teenagers a happy Independence Day.
She was met with blank stares. “You know, the Fourth of July,” she offered. Then they smiled and nodded, and she prodded a bit: “Do you know who we got our independence from?” One guessed France, another Mexico, and the last one said the Indians. “They were not kidding,” Ms. Stevens says.
She enrolled her older son in first grade that year but wasn’t happy with the emphasis on “creative spelling” and art projects. So she traveled to Massachusetts and visited public schools in Northampton, a town that boasts five colleges and universities within a short radius.
“We knew Massachusetts was a fabulous state for public education,” she says…
They haven’t been disappointed living in a state that by many measures sets the gold standard for public education in the United States.
In national reading and math tests, the state’s fourth- and eighth-graders have scored the best since 2005. Compared with the national average, greater shares of students here graduate from high school and score high on college-level Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The state even compares respectably with some of the top-performing countries…
But now Massachusetts, like 45 other states and the District of Columbia, is revising its curriculum as part of a collaboration called the Common Core State Standards – a new chapter in education reform premised on the idea that to compete globally, the benchmarks for reading and math in all states need to reflect a richer set of skills to equip students for 21st-century demands.
Massachusetts could be a good test case for whether the Common Core approach lives up to that lofty rhetoric. President Obama has pushed for it through federal funding incentives, though critics say he has strong-armed states into de facto national standards, chipping away at state control.
For some education observers, Massachusetts has broken the axiom “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and is in danger of watering down a key element of its success.
Others say just the opposite – that the new common standards are at least as strong as Massachusetts’ previous ones and could catapult more states to heights that the Bay State has already achieved…
The emphasis on high-stakes testing led some teachers and parents to protest, worried that it would nudge borderline students into dropping out – a debate that later resonated nationally because of the testing regimen established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
“There was tremendous pushback, bills filed every year to do away with it, but we stuck with it,” Mr. Driscoll says.
After the new system took hold, significant learning gains among Massachusetts students were reflected in both state and national tests.
The MCAS “made us feel as if Massachusetts had higher standards of learning than other states because that test is harder than other, average tests,” Stevens says.
One big reason people came to accept the reforms: The state boosted education funding by more than 10 percent for each of the first six years – targeting the money largely to schools and districts with the highest needs. To date, the 1993 law has channeled $34.5 billion in extra state funding to school districts.
Strategies to boost achievement in Boston – the state’s largest district – have included double blocks of time for reading and math instruction, as well as efforts “to get the best teachers teaching the kids that needed the most support,” says Thomas Payzant, Boston’s superintendent from 1995 to 2006.
In the 2010-11 school year, 97 percent of Massachusetts teachers were licensed specifically in the area they taught, and all teachers are required to earn a master’s degree during their career, says Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Moreover, a statewide testing system for teacher applicants has helped bring up the quality of education.
Another factor: The state reform law set up a rigorous approval process for charter schools, many of which boast strong academic achievement….
Many parents in the state have high education levels and good incomes, making it easier to support their children’s education. In addition, Mr. Toner says, school districts are relatively small, allowing for teachers to know the community better; any student can enroll in an AP course; and all students are encouraged to take college-entrance exams such as the SAT.
With high-stakes testing, some students do have to drill basic skills rather than enjoy a well-rounded curriculum as they approach 12th grade, Toner says, but “you’d have to admit that by having a graduation requirement … it got kids’ and families’ attention and you could see the proficiency numbers on the exams [going] up.”
…[Texas] adopted new math standards this year after a democratic process – starting with a draft based in part on standards from high-performing states, including Massachusetts, says Todd Webster, chief deputy commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. Texas is sticking with those standards rather than adopting the Common Core.
But Massachusetts’ future doesn’t look as rosy to observers such as Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, a conservative-leaning group in Boston.
“Massachusetts made historic gains … but in the last four or five years, a lot of those policy gains have been rolled back,” he says. “There are other states that are nipping at our heels … [and] Massachusetts has kind of plateaued.”
Particularly problematic, he says, is the state’s decision to jump on the Common Core bandwagon. Massachusetts’ standards were a model, he says, and the Common Core standards are of lower quality. For instance, standards for English-language arts used to be based largely on classic literature and poetry, which have a rich vocabulary, but the Common Core emphasizes more informational text, Mr. Gass says. To him it’s part of a “trendy fad” focusing on workforce-development goals and “softer” 21st-century skills.
Commissioner Chester defends the state’s decision to adopt the Common Core, saying it “advanced what we already had on the table.”
Collaboration is increasing among states as more leaders look at the bigger picture of the global economy, Chester says: “When [there are] 50 different sets of standards [and testing] … you’re not necessarily giving children and parents honest and accurate information about how they measure up in a world where state boundaries are less and less relevant to your economic opportunities.”
…The so-called Common Core State Standards in English and math were almost entirely developed inside the Beltway by a small group of D.C.-based education trade organizations.
Many of the 46 states that adopted the standards did so before they were even complete. In the vast majority of states, educational officials adopted the standards unilaterally; few state legislatures ever even voted on them.
To bolster their decisions, some state education officials relied on comparisons of their existing standards to Common Core, comparisons that were funded by the same Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that has spent more than $100 million to develop and promote the national standards.
This embarrassing spectacle calls into question John Adams’ famous claim that the United States is “[a] government of laws, and not of men.”
At least three federal laws explicitly prohibit the federal government from directing, funding or controlling any state and local standards, curriculum, testing or instructional materials.
Despite these clear legal prohibitions, the Obama administration made adoption of Common Core a criterion for states competing for more than $4 billion in federal grant money. Each state that received a so-called Race to the Top grant had either adopted or promised to adopt Common Core.
Another $362 million in federal grants was doled out to two national consortia that are developing common assessments to “help” states transition to nationalized standards and tests.
In their federal grant applications, the two testing consortia flat-out stated their intent to use the money to create a “model curriculum” and instructional materials “aligned with” Common Core, in direct violation of the law. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even said that the consortia’s work includes “developing curriculum frameworks” and “instructional modules.”
In short, the U.S. Department of Education has paid others to do what it is forbidden from doing. The tactic should not inoculate the department against curriculum prohibitions imposed by Congress.
Courageously, Thomas Gosnell, who heads the state chapter of the union Shanker once led, opposed Massachusetts’ 2010 adoption of Common Core. “Our standards . . . are clearly higher than what the federal government is proposing,” he said. “Our students are number one in the nation and the Western world, and here we are being asked to sign onto those [national] standards”…
Charles Chieppo is a senior fellow and Jamie Gass directs the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Since Massachusetts’ educational standards were the highest in the nation before Common Core came along; since Massachusetts’ standards were so high that, testing as an independent country, they ranked in the top worldwide, then why did we adopt Common Core “race-to-the-middle-denominator” instead?
James Gass, of Boston’s Pioneer Institute, asked this question. He said:
Given the historic success of Massachusetts on NAEP and TIMSS testing and the very average performance of the states that have worked with national standards players, unless national standards weren’t a ‘a race to the middle,’ why didn’t other states just adopt the Massachusetts standards, as 2010 Pioneer Institute and Diane Ravitch recommended?
Ravitch goes so far as to say that the Obama administration is wasting its time trying to establish national standards in English and math. “I wish they had just adopted the Massachusetts standards,’’ she said. “They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.’’
Diane Ravitch, historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development