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The release of 2015 NAEP scores showed national achievement stalling out or falling in reading and mathematics..

Critics of Common Core tended to blame the standards for the disappointing scores.  Its defenders said it was too early to assess CCSS’s impact and that implementation would take many years to unfold….

In the rush to argue whether CCSS has positively or negatively affected American education, these speculations are vague as to how the standards boosted or depressed learning.

One telling example is this:

Something significant happened in 2011. It is probably safe to say that Common Core shifted text materials more to nonfiction than any event having occurred any time in the past.

There is no evidence however that shifting to non-fiction creates better students.  In fact, evidence points to the exact opposite.

Prior to WWII our English curriculum was heavily based on British Classical writings covering drama, prose, poetry, and novels. Only after the 60’s with the informalization of education and the original ESEA of 1965, did problems of not being college ready after 12 public school years of education, begin. Until that time, a literature heavy English curriculum was understood as precisely the kind of precollege training students needed.

The very gaps Common Core was addressed to alleviate, will worsen.

“High achieving students in academically oriented private and suburban schools may receive rich literary historical instruction, students in the bottom two thirds of our student population with respect to achievement, especially those in low performing schools, will receive noncumulative, watery training in mere reading comprehension.”

Does College and Career readiness depend on non-informational texts being taught over 50% of the time?  It appears no.

For one, the purveyors of Common Core offer no support or evidence showing how non fiction promotes higher proficiency in reading when compared to students who read almost entirely all classical fiction.  For two, there is compelling evidence that the opposite is true.

Literary study in 1900 shifted from studying the classics to studying British Literature primarily at the insistence of the Committee of Ten, a group who convened in the 1890’s to standardize uniform entry requirements for college.  Their work developed syllabi which listed required readings at each grade level. These syllabi influenced students up until after WWII. At no time did colleges cry out that a rich English literature background would impede college progress, In fact, it was seen as a necessary requirement.

Then in the latter 60’s as massive funding from ESEA began pouring into schools to alleviate “gaps”, academic levels began to become disappointing. In ELA efforts to improve achievement were undermined by inferior, lazy reading texts on lower levels of difficulty.  As a result, remedial course-work in college has exploded, aided and abetted by lower admission’s requirements..

One of the best publicly educated states this past decade as consistently been Massachusetts. In  1997 Massachusetts developed a literature rich ELA curriculum.  The results were impressive. Massachusetts led the nation in reading scores from 2005 onward. It’s numbers of Advance Placement successes, are also highest in the nation. Simply because they reintroduced classical British literature into all classrooms.

A diminished emphasis on literary study will prevent students from acquiring a rich understanding and use of the English language, a development which demands the exposure to the thinking of the most talented writers of English. Increasing informational reading in English class will tend to lead to a decreased capacity for analytical thinking in all students.

The choice of curriculum is not given a literary historical basis but instead is chosen by how well it supports the language construct being taught. In other words,”How” the test are supportive, takes precedence over what is being taught.

Common Core lays out what students should be able to do… not what they should know. In other words, the skilled naive worker…..

One can’t help but wonder if the case for more informational texts and increased complexity (though not necessarily text difficulty) is a camouflage for lowering academic challenge so more high school graduates now appear ready for college upon or before graduation.

The recent collapse of NAEP scores show that dissipation of knowledge, is  exactly what is beginning to happen…..

Graphs are nice for a glance. But they are difficult to flip between when finding comparative data… And if you saw the graphs in the post below this, congratulations.  And if you haven’t yet, flip here and accept my congratulations .  These numbers come from those graphs….

Here are Excel spreadsheets to augment other comparisons.

Excel ELA levels for SBA

Excel MATH levels for SBA

And here are the visuals.

img sba ela

img sba math

A couple of trends stand out. One is that obviously that 11 Graders did not take this test as serious as their counterparts. For them there was no reason to take it and they obviously did not invest any effort.

Second is that those Delaware students in first and second grades whose curriculum WAS Common Core in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, received enough training and skills to do well on this test in 3rd and 4th and 5th grades. Expect this trend to continue and as each year graduates and marches across the columns… In 5 years the third graders will be in 8th Grade and the entire row will be near the top. (Congratulations to the Governor in office during 2020 under whose term amazing progress will be claimed to have been made in education….)

This simply means that if you were trained in Spanish two years before your Spanish test, you did better than those who weren’t trained in Spanish who had to convert everything from the original language learned, into the language now being tested.. I hope everyone gets the analogy so I don’t have to explain it.

We tested in a brand new way. Those trained in the new way did better than those trained in the old way whose brains had to translate what they once learned, over to what they now were being tested….

But caution should still be made when comparing our state to other states. No one can be held accountable for these scores because they are so many variables still in play.

One example: Delaware is well wired for the internet and all of its tests were done electronically.

That creates test taking problems in the higher grades. The student may do the complicated problem correctly but err in its input. Other states, particularly those outside the compact East, took their most of their upper level tests with pencil and paper, not having sufficient internet in place to test every student electronically. This pencil and paper testing familiarity could play in having the Midwest states score surprisingly higher in the upper grades, despite their scores being below Delaware’s in the early grades…

But quite strikingly…. whereas other states range of scores were consistent across their grades, Delaware’s change occurred because our state’s grades tumbled between 5th and 6th to then hold at that level, not the level of the first three grades. That precise pinpoint in time was the year we began teaching Common Core.  What this test proves is that if taught a new method you can be tested on the new method;  but if taught the old method, you are lost. Whereas other states (not as forwardly prepared for the Smarter Balances as Delaware) were lost across the board,  we were only lost 6th Grade on.

Each state sets their own cut scores.  So although Missouri may have taken the same test as Delaware students, it deemed a lower score as proficient in comparison to us.  All this graph shows us is the percentage of proficients.

All which support one developing conclusion. The idea that these tests would allow cross comparison across all boundaries is now defunct. Meaning that these tests if further developed to improve student development, may have some future merit, but to have them used for any accountability or ranking indicator, is shameful.

This test bears false witness as to whether a child is proficient or career or college ready.  We need to return to the old method. At least then, we knew….

For a broader picture, here is a interactive map which compares all Common Core states.  Running through the guantlet it becomes apparant rather quickly that one can only compare states taking the same test.

Not even the PAARC and Smarter Balanced are  on the same page. and a majority of states opted and got waivers to use their own test… So stacking those up against tests of another state simply can’t be done.

So below are the scores of our fellow consortium partners… The Smarter Balanced Assessment squad….  Click on each state to enlarge……..

One sees how closely aligned they are from state to state. Portend that factors and shades of differences are due to outside influences and not to brand new educational disruptions that have been inconsistent from state to state…

Although the Smarter Balanced results are consistent, it was very curious looking at the state tests prior, and comparing their scores prior with each other.  Obviously some state tests were much easier than others.



How would the growth trajectory for African-American students be different, and I’m in the same class as these whites, and Asians, and everyone else.  I’m doing the same thing but I grow more, at a higher growth rate than everyone else. ? Coverdale

I think that would get into some of the differentiation and instruction that teachers have to do and I think that teachers are, their job gets harder more and more every year, and things are being asked of our educators and they are doing a tremendous job in meeting the needs of individual students, but you’re right, there’s gonna be different growth expectations for different students in your same class..  Schwinn


My mommy says you’re not as good as us white people and thats why you have to stay in school longer… I’m glad I’m not black like you……………… We’re better.




“Yeah, so you’re going to have a steeper slope for those students who are currently lower performing, specifically, our students with disabilities, low-income, African-American, Hispanic-Latino, are starting at a much lower baseline so they are gonna be required to jump by 5,6, or 7 points each year as opposed to our Asian and white students who are gonna be required to jump 1 to 2 points each year.” Penny Schwinn….


Yo, Asian boy… You gotta practice basketball 7-8 hours after school, because you ain’t good at it at all. You blacks who are already good at it, you can practice 30 minutes if you want to.. but you Asian boys are so far behind, you gotta stay on the court from immediately after school to 10 pm every day… Remember you have to shoot 1550 points from the floor in your games against the blacks, otherwise you aren’t proficient….

But I don’t want to be a basketball player. I want to be a mechanical engineer……

Fvck you, Asian boy; you have to play; no opt outs….

Moral is… if you are going to do it to blacks, you have to do it to Asians in basketball as well.  Otherwise you are defined as a racist by treating one race far better than others….


“So is there someone in the classroom saying “Hey, African-American student, this is what you’re gonna have to deal with?”  Is there like an African-American student group?  Do you know what I mean? (wink-wink)” Coverdale

(See the amazing full transcript here…)

A Cure for Carlotta
by Bart King

A boy stood on deck and sniffed the salty sea air as the ship pitched back and forth. The smell of the sea was familiar and comforting. The boy’s earliest memories were of being at sea with his father. They would fish for hours, just the two of them, surrounded by the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Now Enzio and his family were on a giant ship crossing the Atlantic. Also on board were hundreds of other people, mostly Italians like Enzio’s family. There were more people on board than lived in his entire village back home in Trevilla.

Enzio clattered down the iron steps to the steerage deck and dove into his bunk. He rested his head against his pillow. Trevilla wasn’t his home anymore. Gone was the fishing boat. Gone was the Mediterranean blue that he’d always taken for granted. Who knew what kind of home America would be?

One of the passengers was a girl named Carlotta. Her family was from Rome. Carlotta had been quick to tell him this on the first day of the voyage. “New York will not be so different from Rome,” Carlotta had said. “They are both great cities, but of course Rome is better. My father has already been to America twice. He is going to open a big department store downtown. My father had a successful business in Rome; all the wealthy ladies would buy from him.”

Carlotta loved to talk about herself, her family, and the rich and powerful people they knew. With so many hours to fill, Enzio did not mind. He noticed—but didn’t really mind—that she never asked about him or his family. Enzio was especially hungry for any details about America. He loved hearing Carlotta’s tales about life in a big city. It sounded exciting and a little scary.

Today, Carlotta was unusually quiet. Her face was pale, and she clutched her stomach with one hand and the ship’s rail with the other. “Up and down, up and down, will it never stop?” she groaned.

Enzio took Carlotta’s hand from the rail. He pressed his fingers on the inside of her wrist, an inch or so from the palm of her hand. “Press this place here, on your wrist,” Enzio said.

Carlotta looked at him miserably. Enzio could tell that only her illness kept her from arguing with him. How well he knew that look on her face. He’d seen it on the faces of many fishermen. He smiled encouragingly. “That’s right. Keep pressing.”

An hour later, Carlotta found Enzio. She was still holding her fingers to her wrist. “I do feel better,” she admitted. “How did you know it would work? Is your father a doctor?” she asked.

Enzio explained that his father had come from a long line of fishermen who had passed down the remedy for seasickness. One of Enzio’s uncles always wore a braided wristband with a bead that pressed into his wrist.

Interested, Carlotta asked to hear more about Enzio’s family. He explained that they were sailing to meet his mother’s brothers. One was a successful stonemason in upstate New York. Another had helped construct the Brooklyn Bridge. Still another worked as a welder, joining the steel frames of the city’s rising skyscrapers.
Carlotta looked at Enzio with new respect. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” Enzio shrugged. “You didn’t ask.”

Suddenly the blast of the ship’s horn startled them. Looking out the porthole, Carlotta shouted, “Look! The Statue of Liberty!”

They could hear the commotion of all the passengers talking at once. Soon the ship would dock at Ellis Island. Gazing out at the mighty but silent statue, Enzio wondered what marvelous things the statue might teach if only someone asked the right question.


question 1question 2


To receive the full-credit score of 1 point, the student must correctly select both paragraphs. The correct paragraphs are paragraph 1 and paragraph 3.

question 3

question 4

question 5

And that concludes your Smarter Balanced test for your child…

He would need to answer all of these correctly to deemed proficient.  How proficient were you?

The idiocy of using this one single event to rate teachers’ performance, to rate schools’ performance, to rate district [performance, by now should be apparent….

The questions are aimed not to determine what each child knows, but how well they can guess what the test takers were thinking….

Remember, none of these questions came from anyone who actually spends time teaching kids… or has children of their own…

Every parent who does know children, needs to opt out today…. It would be different if the test was a good test…. by good, we mean objective… “What is the capital of Delaware?”..  this test does not test knowledge. It tests whether you choose the same things I would choose… nothing more…

I was particularly struck by the last question asking the main idea….  Only B and D could be opted out…..

For picking A, C, E all of which have very good grounds… you child will be deemed a failure who is not college or career ready by the 5th Grade…..

Today an agreement was announced by leaders in Congress and a conference to hammer the differences between the Senate and House Bills will soon be set.  The target for passage is by the end of the year.

You are probably wondering what this portends?

In synopsis fashion it goes like this:

On Accountability

  • states would still have to test students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in reading and math.
  • States would get to decide how much those tests count for accountability purposes.
  • States would be in the driver’s seat when it comes to goals for schools, school ratings, and more
  • States would be required to identify and take action in the bottom 5 percent of schools, and schools where less than two-thirds of kids graduate.
  • States would also have to identify and take action in schools that aren’t closing the achievement gap.

On Opt-Outs

  • It would allow states to create their own testing opt-out laws.
  • It maintains the federal requirement for 95 percent participation in tests.
  • States would have to take low testing participation into consideration in their accountability systems. Just how to do that would be up to them, though.
  • The agreement “leaves a lot of this to states to figure out and the secretary’s ability to interfere with those state decisions is astonishingly limited.”

On Programs

  • Substitutes block granting  instead of delineated granting for physical education, mathematics and science partnerships, and Advanced Placement.
  • Living on as separate line item, will be the 21st Century Community schools program, which pays for after-school programs.
  • Early childhood investment is in. But the new program will be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services, not the Education Department.
  • The new research and innovation program that was described as the next generation “Investing in Innovation” program, made it into the bill.

On School Choice

No Title I portability—that means that federal funds won’t be able to follow the child to the school of their choice.

Other Funding Issues

  • No changes that would steer a greater share of the funds to districts with high concentrations of kids in poverty.
  • Some changes to the Title II formula (which funds teacher quality) that would be a boon to rural states.


(Anthology courtesy of John Young; printed by Exceptional Delaware.)


• Test scores show we perform poorly.
• America performs poorly compared to international students (other nations do not test poverty).
• Schools are failing.
• Teachers are lazy.
• Teachers are incompetent.
• Lack of Grit is an obstacle to success.
• Lack of Rigor causes failure.


• Policies of merit pay and bonuses are creating turnover not stabilizing it.
• The constant shifts in staff based on test score accountability create understandable teacher inertia to meaningful policy change.
• Our schools have been subject to veritable unending policy change since 1983 (Nation at Risk).
• Testing is misused to label and destroy the profession of teaching.
• Testing is used to inappropriately measure schools of education (SB51).
• Testing is used to label schools and fuel a choice law that shifts funds and creates economic chaos in our schools.
• Property tax funding base is unstable.
• Special education is dramatically underfunded and frequently violated ….School boards can help, but honestly are largely an exercise in petty ego wrapped up in pseudo-authority.

Kevin at Exceptional Delaware has already done a review of the 76 page report released today…. It is the official US Department of Education’s own assessment of its own program:  Race To The Top.

One should expect a glowing endorsement.  But even though that would be the normal expectation, that  is not what was gotten… Of course, omissions were there as well.

Let’s begin with the total Race To The Top number..   $4.3 billion….

That stretched out is $4,300,000,000 or roughly 1% of the USA’s non military discretionary budget for one year.

Of that, Delaware got $119,000,000 of that wicked amount of money or in percent….. 2.7% . What did we get?

Delaware got the largest percentage of new students entering college…

RTTT College

Graph courtesy of US Dept of Ed.

Delaware also got an increase in AP scores….

AP Scores

Graph courtesy of US Dept of Ed.

“Delaware, Massachusetts, and Tennessee also get shout-outs for relying on teams of teachers and administrators to provide ongoing feedback. Delaware teachers and state leaders allegedly teamed up to create “rigorous and comparable” measures of growth in non-tested subjects…”

Isn’t this a lie?  We know that some task forces were created but we also know they were handpicked so only those who previously registered support of Common Core (long before its details were made public) were allowed to be on those panels and even then, their recommendations were completely ignored.  If anyone can prove this is not so, please respond in the comments below.

Whether inclusive or exclusive of RTTT funding, independent sources outside the US Dept of Education has reported that spending per child increased in our state by $475 during the RTTT window…. This is in comparison to 4 other states which had not brought per student spending even up to pre-recession levels.  Of those RTTT state increasing, Delaware was at the top.

Funding increase

Courtesy of CBPP

But the report leaves out, or only touches on briefly, several controversial issues where states stumbled or backtracked. That’s especially true with respect to teacher evaluations and policies linked to the Common Core State Standards, especially assessments.

The report seemed to focus less on measurable improvement and more on the new relationships the grants have helped to create between teachers, administrators, and others, and how the grants have refined and enhanced their energy.  Translated into corporate speak that is the equivalent of a CEO requesting down the pipeline if we had achieved his goals for the quarter, only to receive the answer that  “no we haven’t but  we have good news!  Nadine in insurance is dating Jonathan in Finance, which means they are talking to each other a lot,” and expecting that to assuage the expected bosses ire.

Essentially we spent $4.3 billion just to create more urgency and more cooperation…

Today, Arne Duncun admitted as much in his speech on Race To The Top… “My administration, recognizing the urgency of change for today’s students, pushed a lot, fast. We haven’t gotten everything right, and we’ve seen unintended consequences that have posed challenges for educators and students.” 


All of the Race to the Top states struggled with  teacher evaluations that took into account student outcomes. Many experienced serious political blowback to the standards, in some cases causing major consequences for state leaders. Plus, indicators of student achievement in the report don’t paint a uniformly glowing portrait. Duncan himself acknowledged in his remarks that declining scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress aren’t encouraging…..

Here is how that $4.3 Billion was divvied up. (all graphs can be clicked on to enlarge)…

RTTT Funds

Courtesy of Ed Week.

Shifting to new tests to measure students’ grasp of the common core has been difficult. That huge issue is ignored in this report…  Instead  highlights of cooperation between teachers in different states are expounded.  It is like praising the recruitment and training of little boys to fight Russian tanks while ignoring the total collapse of Berlin and the Third Reich.  The newest NAEP results represent Berlin in that scenario.

“The Education Department sunk $360 million into two testing consortia, funded by a second RTTT grant. But four of the states that received the grants the report focuses on (Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee) decided to ditch the PARCC exam for either 2014-15 or 2015-16, while Massachusetts is still undecided about whether to officially adopted PARCC as its state exam. New York has no plans to use that test and  it’s no longer listed as a consortium’s member on PARCC’s website. North Carolina, meanwhile, is still a member of Smarter Balanced, but has so far held off on using the exam.” EdWeek

Today three Race to the Top states—New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee—are formally reviewing the standards as required by their General Assemblies.  Florida and Georgia also made changes to their common core, (Plus a large number of non-RTTT states have ditched or drastically modified Common Core from its original perception.)  No mention in the report, of course.

Unmentioned as well, was the damage RTTT did to top state chiefs… The exalted “chiefs for change” got changed out… It might have gotten hottest for former Tennessee chief Kevin Huffman, who left his post nearly a year ago. But it also made life difficult for John Barge, who is no longer Georgia’s chief.  Delaware’s Mark Murphy mysteriously resigned in the middle of a gigantic all-encompassing state-wide controversy over the right of parents to opt out and not have their schools punished by doing so, and Rhode Island’s former head, Debbie Gist, has downshifted to being in charge of a single district of Tulsa’s school system. Only two Race to the Top states (Massachusetts and North Carolina) and the District of Columbia have the same chief as they did when the program began, by all accounts, a failure…..

The report almost ignores the turmoil surrounding tying teachers performances to the test.  Instead as mentioned above, it applauds areas of cooperation and ongoing feedback, including Delaware’s infamous TELL survey…  Imagine if that was the only true accomplishment of $4.3 billion and Common Core?

Three cheers for RTTT!  We got  teachers to take a survey on their phones…

It’s worth stressing outside this report that it was evaluations  which was perhaps the toughest hurdle many states have faced both internally and with the Education Department. Almost all have argued that tying student test scores to teacher evaluations at the same time that states were shifting to new standards and assessments was misguided. The Department has recently acknowledged this through giving its waivers postponing the implementation of the Accountability piece 2,3,4 years into the future.

Most  astute people can deduce that by having the US Department of Education ignore the problems of Common Core and Race To The Top in its analogy of how their pet project was doing, it becomes obvious by its omission  that in achieving its aims, this program is not working.  This proves once again that you can’t throw money and snap your fingers and make problems go away…

It takes trained people.  And forcing them through constant irrational change-ups to move out of education into other fields, …is something that is not good for America’ s education, …… period.



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