Jack Markell and Chief for Change Mark Murphy are promoting a program called Common Core which is a teach-to-the-test program.  Their philosophy is to put things on a test, fire people who don’t do well, and all will teach to the test out of necessity of keeping their jobs.  This policy does not work.

Recently the PISA test scores came out which showed the US to be not improving over its last scores on that test.   The correlation between these PISA test scores and educational policy has been debunked at being arbitrary at best, in supporting both positive and negative results…

However, the PISA is full of data, and unlike our children, that data should be mined.  A Fairfax, Virginia school system was one of the US’s test districts and the feedback they gave, is directly opposite of that promoted by Common Core.

First, parts of Fairfax County, long known as one of the best school districts in the US, had many schools above those of South Korea, and Finland.  They also has some not so good.

It was the data from these not-so-good schools that show how Education should be approached if we want it to be successful.  The answer got, was not through corporate gimmicks.

“The results, and the reports from the OECD, gave us an opportunity to develop improvement strategies that my successor as Fairfax County’s schools chief is implementing this school year:”

  • “Based on clear results from the OECD Test for Schools, we saw a need to revise our instructional approaches to include more interdisciplinary learning, starting in our middle schools.”
  • “We learned that students wanted and needed closer relationships with their teachers. For example, we found that high school students want a school environment that is safe and welcoming, where they feel valued for their opinions and are encouraged to express themselves. The district is now putting more professional-development emphasis on fostering positive relationships between students and teachers.”
  • “The OECD test takes 3½ hours. There is no preparation, there are no stakes, and there is only a random sampling by the OECD of about 85 15-year-olds—meaning that only that many students are pulled out of class. The questions assess the more complex thinking, problem-solving, and application skills the OECD deems our students need to be successful.”
  • “As districts become increasingly diverse in income and language, this tool for learning enables principals to understand where their schools are …Principals want to know how their students compare with those in top-performing countries, better understand international best practices, and improve the outcomes for their students.”


So from the PISA test we can learn these things….

  • Old school was best; where interplay between different school subjects reinforced attributes in other school subjects.  Each was not an entity to itself.
  • That an 11:1 ratio of student to teachers is paramount.  It develops a relationship of master/student, and creates the positive environment where a student wants to be recognized as achieving among his peers.  It also allows a teacher time to customize the learning for each student, since every human being learns differently.  It allows for students to be grouped by their abilities, providing a greater opportunity to teach topics to students as opposed to teaching at students.
  • The testing is very low stakes.  No high stake testing involved.  We get more accurate results, as opposed to inaccurate results.  Some students may guess due to high stakes, and some students may blank out as a result of high stakes. Whereas high stakes inaccurate results may keep a teacher her job, they do little to show us what a child is or is not getting.  Low stakes testing is more thorough.
  • As schools become more diverse, these important old school tried and true teaching methods, are more important than ever, and with today’s ability to determine a students weaknesses rather accurately, having the correct manpower available to impliment a correction, is ideal.

These are the exact opposite of what Markel, Murphy, Sikola, Chiefs of Change are promoting….  Furthermore, Charter Schools by taking the cream off of public school systems and siphoning financial resources away from Delaware’s most needy, are very damaging to the overall goal of improving education.  Period.

The solutions are obvious.

  • Let teachers teach.
  • Impliment an 11:1 student teacher ratio
  • Lump students by their abilities, not by their birthdays.  Use the previous spring’s test scores to determine placement.
  • Make tests part of the routine, but at low stakes.  These tests do not figure highly in a teacher’s performance appraisal, in a school’s closing, or a districts funding.  Having test scores weighed to count 5-10% of an evaluation would be fair. A good teacher in an impoverished school could then score a 90 even if outside factors created low test scores for her students.

We can fix this problem.  In part it is because we have the data dumps from Common Core which currently show that is is not  working, which actually point us towards the direction we need to go instead…..

Data helps; just not in the direction that benefits the bottom lines of those educational corporations who provided it……