On Monday, Arne Duncan (or somebody in his office) appeared in the Boston Globe pitching some woo-hoo at a couple of his buddies-- school reform, and outgoing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. A former civil rights lawyer who later moved on to corporate law (Texaco, Coca-Cola), Patrick has been tossed around on the list of possible successors to Eric Holder. But this week Arne was hailing him for fixing education in Massachusetts.
These kinds of puff pieces are interesting because they always include these embedded descriptions of what Duncan thinks education is for.
I have always been impressed by Massachusetts’ deep commitment to education. From the founding of America’s first public schools, through the historic Education Reform Act of 1993 and to today, the state has shown a commitment to improving student outcomes, raising academic standards, closing achievement gaps — and to the opportunities for all that a world-class education can create.
So, education is like a manufacturing process with the purpose of creating opportunities for students, like a shirt constructed for them to wear, and not a growth process that allows them to become a fuller more capable more complete more self-sufficient and fulfilled version of themselves. I know, I know-- it's a definition on which reasonable people can disagree. I just find Duncan's language choices revealing.
He goes on to list some fine current stats that show how awesome Massachusetts is. And he lists some of their super-duper achievements
Over the last several years, the state has also introduced new college and career ready academic standards, with a focus on critical thinking, problem solving skills, has brought approximately 5,000 poor children off waiting lists and into high quality early education, and has worked to make college more affordable.
Oh, poor, unloved Common Core. Nobody will even say your name out loud any more, not even those who were once your most ardent suitors.
It's a glowing piece of puffery, but it took just two days for Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based thinky tank, to pop up in the same pages of the same newspaper call bullshit on Arne.
Who says Common Core advocates don’t like fiction? In his Opinion piece on Jan. 5, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan got one fact right: Massachusetts leads the nation in education. Attributing that progress to Governor Patrick’s leadership is like suggesting that a pinch runner who finds himself on third base hit a triple.
Stergios is here to tell you that all of Massachusetts finest education hours came before Patrick set foot in the governor's office. And he's not afraid to use the "C" name, either.
Since the adoption of Common Core in 2010, sampled national tests show
fourth-grade reading scores, the best predictor of future success,
falling more significantly in Massachusetts than anywhere else in the
During Patrick’s time in office, Massachusetts students’ SAT scores have
fallen by 20 points. (Prior to 2007, SAT scores had risen for 13
When Patrick took office, 67 percent of third graders scored advanced or
proficient on the state’s third-grade reading tests (again, an
important marker); that number is now 57 percent.
This would be a good place to remind you that Fordham Institute, a thinky tank that takes back seat to nobody in its love and devotion to the Common Core, compared Massachusetts's old standards to CCSS and found that MA's were better. They said, "Massachusetts’s existing standards are clearer, more thorough, and easier to read than the Common Core standards."
So when we say that the Common Core standards are untested, that's no longer strictly true-- they have been tested all across the country for a few years now. And while I don't agree with the reformsters' measures of success, it's worth noting that by those same measures, the Core have failed in Massachusetts. This is the kind of data reformsters believe important, and by that data, the Core isn't cutting it.
Duncan goes on to note, several times, that Massachusetts is leading the nation in education, and that's not exactly true at the moment. It's more like the national standards are dragging Massachusetts down. So Duncan is essentially congratulating Massachusetts for how well they did in spite of his attempts to stop them. MA is leading the nation in the sense that they already know how to win at this standards game better than the reformsters in DC.
But good luck to Governor Patrick in whatever job awaits him in DC.