Saw this report from Arne Duncun, Federal Secretary of Education, from July 15th.  In it he was warning that scores would drop precipitously, and that we should not give up on common core because of it. it is still a step in the right direction.

“Duncan says when the academic bar is set higher, what often happens is test scores go down. And achievement gaps between groups, which are already often large, often become larger.”


Stop right there.  You just said that like it was true.  You have nothing supporting that statement, and that statement is upon what the entire common core philosophy hinges upon.

So Arne, before we go further, let us look at that statement in more detail, shall we?

The first piece we take is this one:  “when the academic bar is set higher, what often happens is test scores go down.”  Well that would make sense right off the bat, I believe.  I mean as adults, when your boss gives you one performance appraisal rubric at the beginning of the analysis period and says this is how I’m going to evaluate you, and he uses a completely different harder rubric at evaluation time,…  every adult would fail.  That’s just how we adults are.   If we think we have something under control, we don’t put extra effort into it; we put that effort elsewhere.

But how do those adults feel?  Most say screw this job and screw you.  So why is it we think kids will be different , and say, “oh, gosh, darn, ha, ha, ha. You tricked me this time.  But don’t think you’ll trick me next time.  Nope, nope, nope.  I’m too smart for that.  I will study, and study harder, and make you proud on the next test, just you wait and see.”  If an adult would never do that, how can we assume kids will react differently?

Probably the only place one can find an adult like that, is in the employee handbook, at that paragraph where management takes a stab and  describes the “perfect employee”.  Take your bosses’ abuse and smile.  Since most of these kids have parents, it is safe to assume that when they go home devastated they did so poorly after so much work, their parents will tell them not to worry about it; it’s just a test score.

For every action there is a reaction.  And raising the bar by making school even harder, is going to turn many off of school altogether.  With common core it just takes one year.  Because everything builds on the year before.  If something is missed, it is like having a misfire on the years thereafter.

So by raising the test difficulty, and suffering lower scores we are doing what is bad for the child.  Making him hate school. Making him hate being tested.  Making him find something better to occupy his time other than school.  In fact, raising the test difficulty so more people fail, turns off people; it does not excite people to try harder to meet a higher bar. That is just silly to think anyone would act that way.   Especially children, who haven’t learned all the sophisticated dodges adults pick up in the real world.

Then Arne does something strange:  He gives the example of Tennessee: “They saw test scores in math go from about 90 percent proficient to about 30 percent proficient.”

Here is Tennessee’s scores.  They are the only state with Common Core in place to actually show increases,  across  3 consecutive years in all subjects.. (math increased by 3.5%.)

So not Tennessee… Maybe he (or the reporter) mixed it up with Kentucky?   Kentucky and Tennessee, what’s the difference. They’re all the same anyway.

So how does Duncun defend the use of more rigorous standards? “we’re telling the truth for the first time.”
“That’s the brutal truth, that’s the reality,” he says. “We have to stop lying to students and families, we have to be very, very honest and move from there.”

Wait!  What are we telling the truth of?  What were we lying about? What were we dishonest about?

The new standards are more in line with what other countries such as Finland, Hong Kong and Korea are teaching their students.  Oh we are now testing US children in Finnish, Hong Kong Dialect English, and Korean?  I’ve heard of Delaware’s Chinese immersion, but did not know  nationally that we were branching out to three more languages.

So how do those countries teach their students?

Here is Finland.   First of all, education is compulsory, and it is free, including post secondary, irrespective of  financial standing. special attention is paid to internationalization. Basic education is completely free of charge (including instruction, school materials, school meals, health care, dental care, commuting, special needs education and remedial teaching).  Oh, look here!   Teachers work independently and enjoy full autonomy in the classroom.

The student assessment and evaluation of education and learning outcomes are encouraging and supportive by nature. What! They don’t brow beat, punish, and subject their students to repetitive test taking? No, actually! “National testing, school ranking lists and inspection systems do not exist”.

Looks like they empower their teachers too. ” “Centralised steering – local implementation”. Steering is conducted through legislation and norms, core curricula, government planning and information steering. Municipalities are responsible for the provision of education and the implementation. Schools and teachers enjoy large autonomy. Furthermore Education authorities co-operate with teachers’ organizations, pedagogical subject associations and school leadership organizations. This provides strong support for the development.

So if we are trying to emulate the scores of Finland, what are we doing so many things that are directly opposite fo what they do?

So How about Hong Kong? Hong Kong uses the holistic approach: Focus on developing
students’healthy lifestyles, positive attitudes and values, life skills and refusal skills to resist temptation.
Here is what Hong Kong believes is most important: Actively participate / encourage
students to actively participate in student health services to ensure the physical and mental well-being of
students. Adopt a Whole School Approach to guidance and discipline and foster a caring, supportive school ethos… So far neither of those we are trying to reach do the same thing we are, cutthroat testing to toughen our children up.

In fact; both nations would be appalled at some of the reactions American children had under the stress imposed upon them by these tests. Instead they operate under” a well-conceived plan including the other 3 elements of HSP i.e. Fostering a Healthy School Environment, Developing Students’Healthy Life Styles and Identification of Students Who May Need Help and Putting in Place a Referral System…

Both educations systems which Arne call great, don’t force knowledge. They take care of kids. It leads one to wonder, it he low scores have nothing to do with the subject matter. Instead they are cause by students so afraid, they are not performing at their best.

In fact, the evidence Arne brings up, suggests the opposite of his policy might garner the results we need, and doing the opposite of his plan, might just get those scores up more than holding students by the hand while you whip them wildly to get their scores up.