Many of us who have seen Common Core and its implimentation are appalled… Basically why would we force this upon children?

I understand that speaking in grand vision plans is exciting and necessary for soliciting contributions?  But grand schemes fall flat when the boots on the ground are not delivering the promise.

A Burger chain executive can say he will improve service.  But for all the money spent if the clerk at the register only says “Want fries with that?”  all his efforts were in vain.  So it is with this distinction that when dealing with Common Core, we need to seperate the Rodel Vision 2015 with what is actually happening with the testing process.

The breakdown with the entire Common Core approach, is the test. That, and in using a broken test to evaluate teachers good or bad, schools good or bad, and state teaching institutions good or bad.

Just to show you, are some examples I received from this years tests…

Here is the passage to be read, with page 1 and page 2 from which these questions were tacked on the end.

Now here are the questions…. with the possible choices lined up beneath, exactly the same as they appeared on the test.

Why do scientists think that animals became extinct after the ice age?

A) The climate was too cold for anything to survive

B)  There was not enough water for anything to survive

C)  The animals drowned in the water from the melting glaciers

D)  The Climate changed and the animals were no able to meet their need….

If you didn’t choose the 3 answer, you got the question wrong.  It has to be a mistake.   Yet the computer when it grades, spits all answers wrong except for number 3… which to an adult, would be the most ridiculous of the three options… It is to kids too, which means just having one mistake on a test like this, completely eliminates the ability of this test to determine if a teacher is fired or not.  For the theoretical question gets laid out… What if a teacher of challenged children had scores lining up right on the borderline, and this one answer multiplied by all her students would determine if she remained employed?  She would in this case be fired because of a mistake in programming.   We are using a flawed system to generate arbitrary results!

In paragraph 6 resources are–

A)  water that forms from glaciers

B)  things necessary for survival

C)  animals that lived in an ice age

D)  things scientists study to learn about the ice age.

Paragraph 6 reads like this..    As you may have guessed, because of the different climate, differetn plants and animals live during an ice age.  All living things have needs, such as the need for food.  They must have  resources in their environment to meet those needs.  when there is a dramatic change in the environment, the living things may not be able to meet their needs for survival… 

The correct answer was two.  However over the course of a year, students are drilled in science on the use of natural resources.  The students learn that water is one of  the natural resources.  In that context, of what every child is taught… water (answer number one) would be a resource.  Things necessary for survival would not… ( how many of us adults consider  Hostess Twinkies and Mr. Dew a natural resource?  New one to me). Animals would be a “natural resource“, and particularly to carnivores, they would be a source of food.   And scientists?  Don’t they study natural resources?  At least that was the premise of the entire term of science class, that science was important to know and we study it to learn about nature and its resources….

So, this question is asking children to disregard everything they’ve learned over the whole year, and delineate what this author arbitrarily and with no other authority,  chooses to make  the word resources mean.  As an adult, once we already know the answer, we can go back to the question and then from our perspective of looking backwards can sort of see how possibly it could be interpreted to mean what the test answer is telling us it means. But that takes a lot.  Is it right to make a fourth grade teacher’s job accountable on this one author’s definition of resource that flies in the face of the rest of mankind’s definition?  Does it make sense to close down a school on this question?  Does it make sense to divert funds?

No.

What facts would the reader learn by reading the section “Learning About Ice Ages”

A)  How scientists study the past

B)  Where to find more information

C)  What happens during an ice age

D)  Why scientists think there will be another ice age….

Where is the ubiquitous answer “all of the above” ?  Every single one of these  answers applies to this passage.  So who determines “which one has the more weight?”  A historian?  He would put number one.   A librarian?  Number two would come across as the most important.  A futurist?  The scientific type would lay down number 3, and the climatologist would go with number 4.   Essentially all are correct,  for descriptions of all are included in the passage.  But which one is deserving of the most weight?… Remember… it’s your teachers job that is on the line…  Remember  if scores don’t  show improvement we are closing this school and busing your child 30 miles away.  Remember, if scores don’t show improvement we are cutting off your funding….

(Can someone tell me how to Google to find whether this particular test maker was a historian, librarian, scientist, or climatologist?  This is high stakes we are talking about…. )

If you read the passage headlined  “Learning About Ice Ages”   you would find that scientists study the Great Salt Lake in Utah and look at fossils, as well as monitor today’s climate.

So… that would be answer number one.  .. about how scientists study the past.    But wait,  if you read that passage, obviously where to find more information, would be where we found some in the past.. Who knows what else lies beneath the waters of the largest lake in Utah?  Who knows what the next fossils may portend?  Now, it’s answer number two.  For sure.. But wait,  what happens during an ice age?  To the smart reader of the paragraph being expressed, the focus is on how we can tell what happened 10,000 years ago.  But the paragraph is headed by the title “Learning About Ice Ages” and the entire reading selection is titled “Ice Ages”  ..  The test taker would during the stress of taking the test, have to make the distinction (which took this adult three casual readings to notice) that the discussion had subtly shifted from the “whole” passage to just  one part, and that they both had “Ice Ages” in their title.

I pity the teacher of these students…  I hear China is looking for American teachers.

How does a reader learn the main purpose of the selection

A)  It is told by a character

B)  It is stated by the author

C)  It is implied by the author.

D)  It is identified in the last paragraph.

Ok, now after that last subtle shift… I am beginning to wonder what the test questioner is calling  a “selection”.. Are we discussing the entire work? Or the passage above?  Or by now, as I have lost all confidence in the test taker, period, I must be stretched to wonder if he again, arbitrarily chose something else?  If I assume we are back to discussing the entire selection, then…

It is not (a).  There is no character. So scratch that off the list.  The next question is whether it is either stated by the author or implied by the author.  A choice between (b) and (c).   We are told in the second sentence that this article “will explain what an Ice Age is and how one changes Earth.”  We should be safe to say (b)… unless the word selection is not being applied to the entire passage, but just the past paragraph looked at above.  In that case it would be (c) since on directive is specifically stated in that passage…  So which use of  “selection” did they mean?   Knowing that could save your teacher’s job.  Maybe even save a school from closing…   If you go back and look at the last paragraph for answer (d), you will see the last sentence sums up things rather nicely.  It could well be answer (d). ..  The article is titled “Ice Age” and  the last sentence reads… “Today scientists continue to monitor Earth’s climate, hoping to predict the coming of the next Ice Age?”  Well, isn’t that our biggest concern?  How if faced with another Ice Age we will rise to the challenges and survive it?  A lot of weight should be given to answer (d).

Why does the author include section titles?

A)  To guide the reader through the passage.

B)  To organize the reading into topics.

C)  To make going back to research much easier.

D)  To tell the reader what he will be reading.

Obviously this is not in the passage.. This is a test of common sense, only such sense is not that common.  Doesn’t it make sense that “all of the above” needs to be included into the answer selection?  If not, which one of these four would you choose to keep your teacher working?  To keep your schools open? To keep funding coming into your district?

The computer chose 3.

( I would like to thank Houghton Mills Harcourt Publishing Company, Grade 4, Unit 5, for responding to our inquiries and allowing us public use of this information.)

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In a real learning situation these things occur all the time.  However we have ways of give and take to discern the intended meaning from one’s interpretation.   The same principles apply in today’s adult world.  Consider when a directive either too vague or too simplistic comes down from ones boss.  A series of questions returns back up the ladder:  What did you mean about _____?  Were you thinking about ______ when you said this?  Did you consider ______ when you expressed this?

Then we receive the clarifications.  If good, we go forward.  But if still not clear enough to communicate our bosses’ wishes, more questions go back up:  was that to apply across the board or selectively as seen fit?   What is your directive if faced with this particular decision (which I have)  that contradicts what you asked for in your first communique?  After these get sent off, we await more answers to come down the line in the give-and-take., the back-and-forth, that is so necessary in today’s multifaceted world, to insure we are talking apples to apples and oranges to oranges…

This is how adults operate.   Not by …. ok team, we are going to play a game now.  Can you guess what your boss is thinking? I’ll say these words and you’ll get a prize if you are correct!

We are asking children who are naturally inquisitive, who are great geniuses at divergent thinking, to never ask questions. Instead we are telling them to shut up and if they don’t know, it is better for them to guess randomly at that answer their test maker arbitrarily chose when picking out his correct one out of  several interpretative correct answers….

For when you deal with interpretations, there are over 7 billion on this planet.  If you stick to facts.  There is one right answer.

Tests cannot be arbitrary.  Otherwise we are sending out the wrong message.  These test are arbitrary.

SO HOW DARE YOU NOT THINK THE EXACT SAME WAY I DO.  WE ARE FIRING ALL OF YOU AND CLOSING DOWN THIS DAMN SCHOOL  AND THAT GOES FOR YOU TOO!

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