The news report is out: “Sage Test Results Indicate Majority of Utah Students Not on Track for College”.
The Office of Education’s official comment is: “With the new standards and with the new assessments they will see fewer students actually being proficient, but take that in context…”
Thus the USOE readily admitted that the new standards (Common Core) and the new assessments (SAGE/AIR) will make it appear that fewer students are actually being proficient. So it’s not reality. It’s an illusion created by the flawed new standards and testing system. It’s not that suddenly students are failing; it’s that the measuring stick has been switched midstream.
Everything’s different! How can we say that Utah students are “not college and career ready” when even the very phrase (and meaning) of the term “college and career readiness” has been hijacked by the federal government to mean only what the federal government says it means? And that means sameness. Nothing else.
America had locally controlled, traditional, time-tested education in the past. We have Common Core –standardized but experimental– education standards now. The test and its standards are a whole different beast from anything we had a few years ago. Children taught traditionally up until the past year or two or three (depending on the location of their school district) suddenly have been tested using a different measuring stick.
It’s almost as if we used to measure children’s height and now, instead, we’re measuring their weight. It’s almost like measuring with metric when you used to use pounds, ounces and inches. It’s almost like taking a test in Spanish when you were raised speaking English. We used to test traditional learning. Now we test Common Core-defined math, Common Core-defined English. It’s not the same thing.
How is it different? Well, the Internet is buzzing with examples of awful, awkward, unwieldy Common Core math problems that confuse and slow down math learning. But what about the writing portion of the Common Core SAGE/AIR tests?
A friend who served on a state committee and recently reviewed 500 textbooks, recently expressed his Common Core English writing test concerns this way:
“In a typical Common Core practice item, children as young as 6 and 7 are given two “opinion” passages to read, usually on a social issue of some kind. The passages are short. The children are directed to read the passages, form “their own” opinion, based on one of the passages (an inherently biased exercise, but that’s a separate issue), then ADVOCATE for their opinion in writing, using information from the opinion pieces as supporting evidence. Net, net: Read little to no actual information, then form your own opinion, supported another person’s opinion.
Consider the following:
· The word “opinion” or “argument” is mentioned 38 times in the 110 Common Core writing standards.
· Under Common Core, opinion-forming practice and testing is required for EVERY student in all thirteen grades, including Kindergarten.
· “Opinion writing” testing is a central feature of the SAGE/Common Core tests.
What do you get when you combine low-info opinion practice, with messages (from the “informational texts”) to organize, resist, influence, strike, stand up, sit in, and vote, vote, vote…and you do this regularly for thirteen years? Yep, an entire generation of highly-opinionated ‘Low-Information Voters.'”
The same idea was expressed by an Arizona teacher who wrote:
“My turning point came when in answer to questions I had about a student writing sample, my Common Core handler blurted out, “We don’t ever care what the kids’ opinions are. If they write what they think or put forth their opinion then they will fail the test.” I have always taught my students to think for themselves. They are to study multiple views on a given topic, then take their own position and support it with evidence. “That is the old way of writing,” my Common Core handler sighed. “We want students to repeat the opinions of the ‘experts’ that we expose them to on the test. This is the ‘new’ way of writing with the Common Core.” From http://www.sott.net/article/280622-Creating-a-generation-of-Authoritarian-Followers-Interview-with-5th-grade-teacher-reveals-ideology-behind-Common-Core-creators
The above observations are supported by additional evidence from the actual SAGE test. When a high school student last year chose to post screen shots she’d taken of a SAGE/AIR Common Core test question, we all saw that the students were being asked to opine about whether video games or books were a better way for students to learn. The question itself framed the purpose of education oddly. And the pieces that students were to read were slanted toward the opinion that video games were better.
The point is that SAGE/AIR Common Core tests are not just the flavor of the month, not just any variety of a test. They are heavily agenda-driven. They are manipulative of academic tradition, of student thought and student beliefs.
The news that students didn’t score “well” on them, should not lead us to conclude that “Utah students aren’t ready for college.” The news should lead us to conclude that “these experimental, secretive tests are a departure from traditional, time-tested education and must be immediately revoked.”
The whole false narrative being pushed by the USOE should be scrutinized by sane minds. For example, Judy Park of the USOE defended the tests and Common standards in the Fox 13 news article cited above. Park implied that conforming to a national standard and test had been a good idea because “Our students are seeking jobs all over the world.” Her argument, that Utah needed to become Common Core- aligned to help students be more competitive, truly lacks common sense. The whole world flocks to U.S.Universities, including Utah universities– not because we have conformed to others, but because traditionally, we have been above and beyond others. Shouldn’t America remain individualistic and free, especially in the realm of education?
Making the education standards of Utah conform to Mr. David “Noneducator” Coleman‘s Common Core was a huge mistake; jumping on the “alignment of common data standards” bandwagon was likewise a huge mistake. We are losing individuality, autonomy and local innovation because of Common Core and its testing and data collection practices.
Dropping Common Core like an ugly hot potato, the way that Oklahoma did this year, is going to be increasingly difficult, however, because the Utah Attorney General fanned the flames of Common Core promotion when he reported that there’s no reason to worry about Common Core.
That’s another topic for another post.