John Young referred a Chalk Face bit that featured an Education Week bit that covers the Brookings Institute report called the Brown Center Report on American Education The author is Tom Loveless. Please show him some love….

I decided to break his piece down into seeing at a glance, everything one needs to understand about Common Core. Keep in mind, the Brookings Institute defines our national security. It is not a fake think tank like those founded by the Koch Bros. or Gate’s Foundation.

Common Core State Standards project.

The study focuses on three arguments:

I. The quality of the common core is superior to that of existing standards;
II. The tests tied to the common core will be rigorous;
III. Common standards will reduce differences across the United States by “putting all states on the same page.

Doesn’t that sound like every one of Jack Markell’s News Journal Op-Eds?  Or if you attended Dave Sokola’s Common Core Meetings (Nancy was there), isn’t that exactly what you heard?…..  Or if you ever read the Editor’s view in the News Journal, you have heard this all before…   But I just wanted to show all, that this is not original thinking; it is just a re-read off of talking points emailed for distribution…. You know, like what they used to send out if you responded to one of those late night infomercials back in the nineties?….  “Our SX-R-cizer will do these three things to your body….”

Let’s look at facts, now, shall we.  In order.

I. The quality of the common core is superior to that of existing standards;

Has the quality of standards ever mattered?  No. Rvidence shows that whatever quality a standard is deemed to be, it doesn’t impact teaching.  From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones. Both top ranked Minnesota and  bottom ranked Mississippi climbed the same.

II. The tests tied to the common core will be rigorous;

The analysis of rigor takes the same tack. What is rigor? Rigor is where a state decides to make it’s cut point. Florida opted to lower its cut point when it saw itself failing a majority of its students. It had less rigor than New York, which set its cut point high, and failed over 70% of America’s second-most populous state. At 8th grade, all those states with lenient cut points have made NAEP gains exactly similar to those states with rigorous ones. At fourth grade there appears to be higher gains in states cut high, but the gains are tiny at best, and it impossible to determine if rigor was the cause. Either case, great gains promised are not made.

III. Common standards will reduce differences across the United States by “putting all states on the same page.

We all know of the huge difference between Minnesota and Mississippi on NAEP. What often goes unnoticed is that every state in the nation has a mini-Minnesota-Mississippi contrast within its own borders. Common state standards might reduce variation between states, but it is difficult to imagine how they will reduce variation within states. After all, districts and schools within the same state have been operating under common standards for several years and, in some states, for decades. If standards worked at all, we’d already have success across our entire educational field.

No one should be surprise that standards have no affect. If one sets standards, then puts it on the shelf, one gets no result. What does provide results are solid curricula, excellent teaching, good assessment, sound accountability systems; all these things must fall into place first, for the promise of standards to be realized.

And that is what Common Core has not done. It is only a standard handed to teachers who are told to run with it. and by the way, if you don’t succeed, we’ll fire you….

Likewise, if instead of focusing on Common Core Standards, we totally lost our senses and instead focused on providing a solid curricula, excellent teaching, good assessment, and sound accountability,…. we would get the results we desire,… standards or no standards…

Obviously we need new definitions.

Solid Curricula; Since public schools in America educate everyone, our curricula needs to insure our basics are covered. Currently they are. Common Core actually weakens them, which is why parents are up in arms over this silly rollout of nothing but something created to assuage someone’s ego.

Excellent teaching: being able to get every student to perform to the best of their ability. Requires personal attention being applied to each student. Cannot be done in classrooms over 11/1 student ratios.

Good assessment: this can be done by graduation rates, SAT’s scores, and NAEP’s. Even a final exam at years end, would qualify.

Sound accountability: As Delaware has seen, waiting one, or two, or three years to determine whether state approved charter schools are damaging the brains of our children is immoral. They are. Yet nothing is done about it until it finally breaks wind into the News Journal. Despite the fact that the Department of Education has discussed that school ad nauseum, nothing gets done until the debacle goes public. The same is true in an individual classroom. The reason accountability is so slow is manpower. Investing in more human beings, and assessing the wealth inherent in Delaware at a proper rate to cover the costs, would speed accountability to where only a month or two of damage would be allowed to occur….

Sound accountability begins at the top. If the Secretary of Education for an entire state, has his test scores go backwards in a year, it is time for some accountability where it matters. Not wimp out and randomly pick some teachers to fire…

Like a puzzle pulled off the toy shelf at Walgreens (formerly Alan Levin’s Happy Harry’s) after staring at the pieces as long as we have, we see it is rather easy to put the puzzle together and fix our education as it could be. Just staring at the pieces, it is obvious we have a golden opportunity to really get this huge puzzle right.

We need human resources capable of bonding and motivating children to become the best of what genetics and environment will allow them to be… You can’t test that…. Because it does include art, music, PE, drama, politics, social skills, and all those intangibles that cannot be measured.

Try an 11:1 ratio. Start it in schools with over 50% free lunch… Increase the tax on the 1% just enough to pay for it, whatever that amount must be…

This can be done.

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