Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mythbusting the US Chamber

The US Chamber of Commerce is all in on the push for Common Core, and they throwing money at the push for the Core with unbridled enthusiasm. They have created an entire website (well, paid somebody to create, anyway) devoted to their devotion to CCSS. It has many nifty features, including links to some fine video production, but today we're visiting the tab labeled "Myths vs. Facts" because it offers the highest concentration of baloney-per-byte of any other portion of the site.

Myths vs. Facts is set up as a fun quiz, where they present a statement and then we have to decide whether it's a myth or a fact. So we'll look at their mythbusting, and then do our own mythbusting on their mythbusting. Buckle up, because there are many myths to bust.

The Common Core State Standards are owned by private entities which cannot be influenced by the public.

Myth: "The Common Core Standards are owned by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. These groups are both made up of state officials who are accountable to the public." Sort of. The NGA and CCSSO both employ staffs to do the heavy lifting. Otherwise we're talking state governors and top school officials from the states, which is a mixed bag as far as "accountable to voters" is concerned.

The federal government will take over ownership of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Myth: The federal government won't do that. The NGA and CCSSO are committed to developing a long-term governance structure.
Which is a pretty thought. Personally, I'm committed to developing more hair on my head. Don't know if I'll ever get around to it.

The Common Core State Standards were developed by the federal government.
Myth: "These new standards were not Washington's idea and the federal government was not involved in their development." They were totally commissioned by NGA and CCSSO.
I smell flop sweat. See, it should be enough to use the regular weasel-word talking point about the states leading through the oft-cited NGA/CCSSO. But here they had to reach for the big lie that DC had nothing to do with it.
"Look what we did," said the NGA/CCSSO, presenting the standards on stone tablets.
"Woah!" exclaimed the feds. "That is amazingly awesome. I had no idea you guys were up to any such thing. We are totes surprised!"
No, nobody anywhere believes that one.

The CCSS expose students' private data to the federal government.
Myth: "Data collection is at the state level, based on laws having nothing to do with the Common Core. Implementation of the Common Core does not change current practices."
That, my friends, is some first class baloney. Technically correct, just as it's technically correct that Stalin did not personally kill millions of Russians, this doesn't do a thing to deny the essential truth of this "myth." It just skips over "and sells that data to corporations" or "as they've wanted to do for twenty years."

The presence of CCSS will result in less innovation in state and local curricula.
Myth: "Because the standards are more focused than previous state standards, teachers and localities actually have more flexibility to be creative and responsive to community priorities and individual students."
Also a bicycle, because a vest has no sleeves. I mean, that one doesn't even make sense. By clamping the athletes' ankles together, we will allow them to run faster.

The CCSS are a national curriculum.
Myth: Oh, you can already write this one yourself. Same old baloney-- the states and local districts and teachers are free as birds in the sky.
Presuming those birds have been wrapped up in binding twine and shot out of a cannon. It makes me sad to think that, this far into implementation, there are people who believe that this is true. I wash my hands of them. I would rather do something more productive, like convince the Flat Earth Society that we live on a globe.
Busted, repeatedly.

The CCSS don't have enough emphasis on fiction/literature.
Myth: Okay, they completely fumble here. This is actually a win for CCSS fans; CCSS calls for certain percentages for fiction/informational through the whole program, not just the English class. But instead the Chamber goes with some waffly business about how they're keeping important American documents and stuff by that Shakespeare fella. Oh, and local control!

Many states only adopted Common Core Standards to qualify for new grants being offered by the federal government.
Myth:"States across the country adopted CCSS because they recognized the clear need to improve their education systems and better prepare America's students for college." Now they're just making shit up. This malarkey is followed up with the claim that CCSS only made up 8% on the RttR Final Exam anyway. And for some reason, people on both side of the issue like to gloss over the NCLB piece of this. Non-race states still needed a waiver because right now every state in the union is in violation of the No Child Left Behind laws. "Many states adopted CCSS because there was a gun to their heads" is also not a myth.
Busted, and also busted

Private schools, religious schools, and homeschooling will be required to follow Common Core Standards.
Myth: "As they have in the past, private, faith-based, and home schools will continue to have flexibility on how and what they teach, as long as it comports with state guidelines." Perhaps this is a software glitch, because this seems to be the answer to some other question.
Did not respond to prompt

There was only one math content expert involved in reviewing the Common Core Standards, and he withheld his approval for the standards.
Myth: There were eight, and six approved it. 75% is passing, right? Also, seventy experts were on the team. They missed an important lesson here; it's easier to bust myths that are made out of straw.
A Win

Common Core Standards do little more than prepare students for entry-level and low-level jobs.
Myth: "According to a 2011 ACT study, just one in four American students who graduate high school are ready for college. Only 52% of graduates were prepared for college level reading courses, 45% were ready for college level math courses. In fact, only about half of students entering college finish any degree within 6 years." Yes,the only possible explanation for any of those (suspect) statistics is high school education. Oh no, wait--Here's the link to my other explanations.

The Common Core State Standards are internationally benchmarked.
Oooh! Fact!! "International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards." Specifically, the part of something that people talked about as necessary marketing. Not, unfortunately, the part of a real thing that actually happened. But hey-- have you seen that big appendix at the end of the Standards? That totally proves that benchmarking occurs, just like the works cited page in a freshman English college paper proves the student really read all those sources.
Not Actually a Fact

The Common Core State Standards are not research or evidence based.
Myth:"The standards have made careful use of a large and growing body of evidence. The evidence base includes scholarly research; surveys on what skills are required of students entering college and workforce training programs; assessment data identifying college‐ and careerready performance; and comparisons to standards from highperforming states and nations." There you have it. Evidence! Surveys! Comparisons to the state standards which-- wait-- what? How did we compare them if they weren't written yet? I think somebody confused their market research with other research.

The Common Core dictates the process for evaluating teachers.
Myth: "Only states decide how to evaluate teacher, principals, and other educators." Fair enough. The Standards themselves say nothing about evaluating teachers. Those instructions came crazy-glued onto the standards when they arrived from the feds. But the states can use any method they want, as long as it's approved by the feds. And Henry Ford offered the Model T in any color, as long as it was black.

The Common Core State Standards tell teachers what to teach.
Myth: "The best understanding of what works in the classroom comes from the teachers who are in them." That's why the CCSS were developed in close consultation with--oh, no, wait. Never mind. Anyway, we won't tell teachers how to teach. We've hired Pearson to do that. 

Teachers were involved in writing the Common Core State Standards.
Fact! Once again, the Chamber overreaches. They could have gone with the usual waffle-wording that says teachers were "involved" because many got to see and make comments on the finished product. But the Chamber goes in whole hog: " The drafting process relied on teachers from across the country." "Relied"!! But in for a penny's worth of baloney, in for a pound. Lots of experts came together "to create the most thoughtful and transparent process of standard setting." Yes, those secret meeting with non-disclosure agreements to be signed by each participant, and involving no public comment or input-- that's the model for a thoughtful and transparent process. Maybe the theory was that since the non-participation of teachers has been so thoroughly documented, they needed to go with a Big Lie here.
Busted with fire into a million pieces

I hope you appreciate this busting, because this is the closest I've ever come to doing actual work on this blog. The myths are on a random rotation (like those amazing facts on Mental Floss) and I had to look at some of these a zillion times to get to the rest. For all I know there are still some like "The CCSS were found among the bullrushes in a wicker boat" or "The CCSS will make all students tall, slender and attractive." But I couldn't go on.

The US Chamber's devotion to the core is inspirational, but it's worth paying attention to because while these are the folks who believe you can't fix education by throwing money at it, they apparently are all too willing to fix education reform by throwing money at advertising about it.  

1 comment:

  1. Great myth busting! I am new to your site and I appreciate all I've read so far.