Thursday, October 29, 2015

StudentsFirst Weak Core Endorsement

Andy Cuomo's Common Core Task Force is supposed to be busily working today to come up with a new name for the Common Core to carefully examine and consider educational modifications to the Core because it's politically expedient to do so because it's politically expedient to do so.

StudentsFirst NY was only too happy to get involved with a forum sponsored by High Achievement New York, a coalition that asks the question, "If you rub a whole bunch of astroturf together, can you light a fire under New York politicians?" Today they're reporting the testimony of four parents, and it's a sign of how weak the pro-Core argument has become. I'm not going to list the parent names, though SFNY does. I just want to concentrate on the actual argument being pushed here.

Parent #1

Parent #1 has a third grade student who will be taking his first CCSS-aligned test in February. And he has a story to tell.

In the past, I had no way of really knowing if he was making the grade. Last year, he fell behind academically and the only way I found out was after I asked his teacher at a parent teacher conference.  I don’t understand why they didn’t let me know he needed extra help. 

Let me be clear-- this is a real problem, and Parent #1 has every reason to be upset. However, the Core and and Core-aligned tests are not a solution.
The Common Core will make sure my son is on track. I’ll have a way to make sure he’s making the grade – and his teachers will be able to show me clearly what he needs to work on.

What way to make sure he's on track? The CCSS-aligned test? The one he's taking in February??? Because otherwise I'm not clear on how the Core makes the teacher more transparent and communicative about the student's progress (or lack thereof). 

Parent #2

This parent's child is in sixth grade. 

I was lucky enough to grow up in a school environment where my parents and teachers could track my progress. I want my child to have that same opportunity.

Excellent! Did you grow up with Common Core in your school? No? Then let's talk about how to install that excellent system and environment that you grew up with, because there's no reason to think that it had anything to do with CCSS.

I am sick and tired of hearing that every child doesn't deserve high standards. 

And yet I don't think I've ever heard anybody say it ever, at all, even once. 

Parent #3 

Two daughters who have both taken Core-aligned tests, and boy were they hard, but now the girls are proud of having "made it through."  This parent asserts that the daughters "are getting a better education now because of the Common Core." No indication of how, exactly. The Core is a critical tool for teachers, somehow, and it is "critical for parent to hold the system accountable." Again, not clear how that works, exactly, or more importantly, why one needs Common Core to do it..

Parent #4

Fourth grade son. And this parent loves the Core a lot.

I believe that all parents should be able to track their children’s progress – and that’s exactly what the Common Core does 

Because of one aligned test a year? That may seem bizarre, but next up is this false equivalency built of straw.

There are some parents who don’t want their kids to take the annual tests. I just don’t understand why they don’t want to know if their kids are learning what they need to learn. Burying your head in the sand may make you feel better, but it’s not going to help your child learn the skills he needs to be successful.

Not such a mystery. I'm going to bet those parents figure that the Big Standardized Test does not actually tell them whether their kids are learning. They might even suspect that there's no reason to believe that the Common Core is an actual list of what students need to learn.

And that's it

Let me point out, for the record, that when Core advocates complain that folks conflate the Core Standards and the Big Standardized Tests, this is the sort of piece they should be looking at-- all four parents draw no distinction at all between the standards and the tests and treat them as part of the same swell Corey creature. Which is as it was always designed-- I'm just saying that Core fans need to stop asking, "Where did people get such an idea? The standards and the tests are totally different things!"

Beyond that, this weak sauce is a reduction of the classic reformster stew of real problems and fake solutions. Every one of these parents is concerned about something worth being concerned about, and every one of them puts in a plug for a solution that is not a solution.

If you are really concerned about getting lots of useful feedback about your child's progress, call your child's teacher. If your child's teacher is not forthcoming, that's a problem, and you should raise a ruckus. But no matter what, a once-a-year BS Tests that tests only for narrow areas of math and English will not address your concern about useful feedback. Agitate for a transparent system-- heck, the technology is already in existence and in use to make a teacher's electronic gradebook available for student and parent view. My students and their parents can see exactly where they stand every single day, and if more detailed explanation is needed, I am only a phone call or email away. Compared to the dark ages when I went to school, we live in an age of unparalleled transparency and availability of school information.

The advocacy here is representative of the current state of the Core itself-- weak, vague, and confused. The problems listed are real, legitimate concerns, but there isn't one of them that isn't better addressed by something other than the Common Core. If this is what StudentsFirst has mustered to fight off their own reformy buddies in Albany, then the Common Core brand is in big trouble in New York.


  1. "And yet I don't think I've ever heard anybody say it ever, at all, even once."

    Okay, then I'll say it. Students don't deserve "high standards" for the same reason they don't deserve to be flipped over backwards in their chairs and flung across the room - it's abuse.

    Standards are, by definition, uniform for all kids. The only way you can set "high standards" that will in fact be high for all kids is to set them so high that only the very top few can even hope to achieve them even with a hell of a lot of work - like making every kid do an Ironman, because some kids can already run a 10k, so expecting a mile or even a 5k from those kids wouldn't be "high standards".

    What every child deserves is to be encouraged - and supported - to do his or her best to achieve at a level just a bit higher than s/he thinks s/he can. And gradually raise the bar from there, at an individual pace and, most importantly, keeping the kid's own interests, goals, strengths and limitations in mind.

    1. Well, yes and no. You start by objecting to having high standards. Then in your last paragraph, you explain how to have high standards. I still don't think anybody anywhere objects to high standards. Nobody is saying, "We should set the standards really low for this kid." But there is a huge huge huge gap between the different definitions of what high standards are and what they look like because it is a phrase so broad and vague as to be almost meaningless. But only almost.

    2. No, my last paragraph doesn't talk about standards. Standards are, again, uniform. My last paragraph talks about expectations, which can be different for every child. I have no problem with high expectations (well, so long as they're not considered to be the only intervention needed to solve things like poverty and trauma). I have huge problems with any standards, at least in any context involving human beings.

  2. Regarding what the four parents are supposed to have said there must have been a ton of paraphrasing. Real people don't speak like that, it is so artificial. It reads like the stuff that actors have to say in bad TV adverts.