The Real Reason for Common Core is to give Billionaires another weapon to Destroy our Public Schools
Despite the fact that Common Core is now the official education standard for more than 40 States – and has been since 2010 - a 2013 Gallop Poll found that more than 60% of all Americans had “never heard of the Common Core standards”. This is still true today. Fewer than half of all Americans have any idea what Common Core standards mean or how they might adversely affect their children. Even those who support Common Core typically have no idea what Common Core is, how it evolved, what its drawbacks are, how much it will cost or what effect it will have on our kids and our public schools. Common Core based testing began in 25 states in 2014 (including most school districts in Washington State). Nearly every state and school district will be subjected to Common Core in 2015. Now is the time for anyone who cares about the future of our children and our nation to become better informed about Common Core. In this article, we will look at one of the chief drawbacks of Common Core, the fact that the standards ignored 100 years of research on child development.
One Common Core Standard to Rule Them All... A Single National Curriculum and an Unfair National Test
Any child who does not pass this test is a branded a failure and so is his teacher and so is his school.
The marketing claim used to promote Common Core is that there should be one rigid set of national education standards determined by a few billionaires as being what is needed to prepare every student to be “career and college ready.” Common Core is a “one size fits all” approach to education that makes about as much sense as offering shoes that comes only in Size 11. It does not matter how well the shoe is designed. No size 11 shoe will fit every foot. No national standard will fit every State, every school and every student. But the fact that it is an obviously bad idea is not relevant to the corporate raiders. The real point of Common Core is that it can be used to introduce new and more difficult Common Core tests. What is very difficult for many of us to understand is that the Common Core tests are not related to Common Core standards. So Common Core standards are LESS complete than prior standards and yet at the same time Common Core tests are much harder than prior tests. Hang in there for a few minutes and we will explain this apparent contradiction.
What is a Common Core Standard?
Common Core standards are similar to the prior State Learning Standards. They are simply statements about what a student should know to graduate from a given subject or grade.
Here is what a Common Core Standard looks like:
CCSS 4.04.17a... All students will ___________. Then fill in the blank as to what a Wall Street Hedge Fund manager (or Bill Gates) thinks all students must be able to do by a given year in school.
Multiple this times 1,620 statements of what all children should be able to do and you have the Common Core standards. Note that the standards are the same whether the student is rich or poor or whether the student has a learning style, interest or motivation that favors the subject. The standard also ignores the class size of the school or the crime rate in the neighborhood. The standards were never reviewed by early childhood educators or experienced classroom teachers. But the biggest problem with Common Core standards is that they cannot change from State to State or from year to year. Unlike previous State Standards, there is no mechanism to revise, correct and improve the standards over time.
Many of the Common Core standards are very poorly written and much worse than prior State standards. The reason for this is that the prior State standards were typically written by groups of teachers who would then have to teach using these state standards. Teachers want a logical set of standards that are developmentally appropriate for the children they will be teaching. Many of the teachers who wrote the prior State standards had more than 20 years of experience working with students. But the common core standards were written by three people who had no experience at all in teaching either elementary school, middle school or high school. This is why the standards and teaching methods often border on the absurd. For example, a typical Third Grader reads at about 90 words per minute. But Common Core tests assume Third Graders can read at 300 words per minute!
Comparing Common Core Billionaire Standards (CCBS) to Prior Educational Achievement Regulations and Learning Standards (PEARLS)
To see the real purpose of Common Core, we should understand how Common Core standards are different from prior educational standards in the United States. In the past, most States essentially had three high school learning standards. There was a “college prep” standard which included college prep courses and college prep tests such as the SAT test for the one in four students who planned to attend a four year college. We also had general high school courses and requirements to receive a general high school diploma and prepare students for a vocational technical career or attending a two year community college. This middle track worked well for the 50% of students who graduated from high school but did not go on to a four year college. Finally, we had a GED or high school equivalency test standard for the one in four students who failed to graduate from high school. This third track allowed late bloomers to prove to employers that they had mastered basic skills of math, reading and writing. A GED also allowed any late bloomer to qualify to enter a community college.
Common Core eliminates these three sets of standards and replaces them all with one uniform set of standards that apply to all students. Thus, the developers of Common Core created the phrase “prepare all students to be College and Career Ready.” You will see this marketing phrase used on nearly all Common Core propaganda.
The problem with one standard to rule all students is that it does not really work for any of these three groups of students. Common Core standards, as currently written, are too low to prepare students for a four year college. Thus, you will hear some complain that Common Core is “dumbing down” our colleges which are being forced to accept students who pass the Common Core math test but who lack essential college level math skills and in the past would have been required to take remedial math courses at college. Others fear that Common Core standards may be too high for non-college track students. However, the truth is that Common Core standards are either the same as or LOWER than the prior high school learning standards used in many states.
To better understand Common Core, we will begin by comparing Common Core standards to the prior standards in my home state of Washington. We will then see how these standards were ignored the 8th Grade Common Core math test called SBAC was created. In other words, the Common Core standards have little to do with the Common Core tests. The high stakes tests were not created to align with Common Core standards. They were created simply to flunk as many students as possible.
Finally, to confirm that this is the rule rather than the exception, we will see how Common Core was used as an excuse to change the Washington State GED math exam, also with the goal of failing as many students as possible. My hope is that after seeing these examples, you will better understand the real purpose of Common Core. Like vouchers, charter schools, virtual schools, Leave No Child Untested and Race to the Bottom, Common Core is “designed to fail.” None of these programs were ever intended to succeed. They are simply intended to undermine and destroy public schools in order to create hundreds of billions of dollars in new profits for Wall Street hedge fund managers.
Comparing Common Core Standards to Prior Washington State Standards
Common Core marketing propaganda promotes the myth that Common Core standards are more “rigorous and well researched” than prior State standards. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Common Core standards were hastily written by people who obviously know nothing about child development or how children learn. At first glance, there appears to be almost no difference between the new Common Core standards and the prior learning standards in Washington State. For example, a detailed November 2010 comparison study by a group of 25 educators in Washington state, called the Washington Alignment Analysis – which compared all 332 prior State math standards word for word to the wording of the new Common Core math standards found that 95% of the Common Core standards matched the prior standards! Here is the link to the 80 page report: http://www.k12.wa.us/Corestandards/pubdocs/WAAlignmentDocumentmathematics.pdf
However, the other 5% of the Common Core standards miss important educational tasks and replace them with tasks that are confusing, ambiguous and developmentally inappropriate.
For example, Common Core standards fail to introduce the number line and number pattern comparison until the Second Grade. This is a huge mistake that will not work. These are essential number comparison skills which should be introduced – and historically have been introduced – in Kindergarten. Instead, Common Core has students verbally act out situations involving addition and subtraction – even though many Kindergarten children lack the needed verbal and social skills. Common Core also demands that very young children engage in abstract reasoning even though young children are not capable of abstract reasoning and require instead concrete examples using actual objects. Rather than helping young children learn math, Common Core appears to be designed to reduce the chances that young children will learn math. In short, Common Core is designed to fail because the corporate raiders want our schools to fail.
Arne Duncan Magic Thinking
As bad as Common Core treats math in Kindergarten, its standards for English are even worse. The new standards require that half of all reading in Kindergarten through Grade 8 be non-fiction. Any child development specialist or Kindergarten teacher knows that young children are magical thinkers. They thrive on stories of super heroes and princesses in Magic Kingdoms. Fictional stories with lots of well chosen images are how we motivate children to learn to read. Arne Duncan thinks he can just wave a magic wand and have young children instead want to read the latest stock market news in the Wall Street Journal. In a way, Arnie is behaving just like a Kindergartner. He is engaging in Magic Thinking – a kind of thinking that runs throughout the Common Core standards.
An example of Arne Duncan's magical thinking is the claim that it is good for 3rd graders to spend three hours a day on high stakes tests under the extreme stress that their beloved teacher will be fired or their beloved school will be closed if they fail the test. This is similar to telling a child that they will lose their parents if they fail to pass a test. It is a form of child abuse and Arne Duncan should be put in jail.
Confusing Kindergarten Students with Hidden Partners
Here is a Common Core Kindergarten math example. It is a “finger” assignment which involves hidden partners. The problem with this is that Kindergarten students are concrete thinkers. They have a very difficult time describing or using hidden objects.
As you can see, Jaiden was unable to complete the finger assignment. So he asked his dad to help him. The dad has a PhD in Chemistry but he was not able to do this beginning Kindergarten assignment either. The dad is now a vocal opponent of Common Core.
Shocking Fact: Not a single person on the Common Core Development Committee was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.
Here is what one Kindergarten teacher wrote:
“Because of Common Core — despite being in tears, these innocent 5 and 6 year old children — children who used to be finger painting, learning nursery rhymes, engaging in dramatic play with miniature kitchens, role playing with costumes and puppets, and building forts with large wooden blocks — endured FIVE hours of standardized testing. FIVE hours of standardized testing of 5 and 6 year olds? Do you really think American parents and teachers are going to allow this testing abuse?
Another one wrote:
“As a kindergarten teacher teacher with 20 years experience in early childhood education, I am outraged! Every early childhood expert I know will be as well, but I want more than that! I want parents to be outraged! I want teachers and administrators to be outraged! I want them all to call Congress and demand Test Hearings Now! And then I want Congress to be outraged enough to put a gate up between corporations and public education to preserve public education for our children, our parents, our teachers, our communities, and our very democracy.”
Here is another one:
“What is developmentally appropriate is being eliminated by high stakes and testing: Five year olds should be playing, exploring, running, jumping, climbing, painting, modeling out of clay, creating, solving real world problems with their clear sense of innocent social justice, learning how to interact with large diverse groups through play, using Montessori-like hands-on materials from nature to learn math, reading, science, etc. Their interests and talents should be foremost, not canned scripted curriculum and “rigor”. Five year olds should be free of high stakes, labels of “failure”, culling, and standardized testing except in the few instances when we use these for evaluative purposes to get children the special education services they need, period.”
Here is another one:
“Kindergarten children who barely know how to hold their pencil, write the alphabet or add 2 and 2 are expected to write topic sentences and use diagrams to illustrate math equations??? It is time to stop this insanity! We need a firewall between corporate education reform and public schools. We need a firewall between privatizers and public schools. We need a firewall between predatory philanthropists and public education!” Susan DuFresne – Full Day Integrated Kindergarten Teacher and Co-Author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates
Here is another one by Angie Sullivan, Nevada Kindergarten Teacher:
“As a primary teacher, I speak out against common core because it is not developmentally appropriate. Obviously, no one was involved from the Early Childhood Community in writing these standards. For Example: There are no writing standards in common core for Kindergarten. So they pushed down third grade standards to teach in Kindergarten. My writing standard for my at-risk 5 year olds is... write a fact and opinion paper. Yep - one standard, write a paper. There is not one good kindergarten teacher out there that thinks THAT should be the standard for five year olds who need to learn to hold a pencil and write their name first. Across the nation Kindergarten Teachers are protesting against common core. Something is very wrong when you push down standards for second and third grade and they end up in a Kindergarten classroom.
The testing connected with these standards is ridiculous and useless. And this is what we spend our limited funds on now? Millions of dollars spent to test and fail - rather than to support and instruct students. And yes - common core and testing are a package deal... and both do affect curriculum - and it's a lie to state otherwise. And all of the above leads me to fully believe this is about money and not about kids. I am convinced that there has been a huge national campaign to invalidate educators and years of real education research -- so that corporations can make a profit implementing junk science like common core. Someone is making millions and billions -- it is not helping my Nevada students.”
A Long Island parent writes:
“Recently, my 10-year-old daughter asked me what it would take for me to let her stay home from school forever,” she said. “Not tomorrow. Not next week. Forever. She said: ‘I’m too stupid to do that math.’ Your child is broken in spirit when they have lost their confidence and internalized words like stupid. That damage is not erased easily.”
A NY superintendent described a new childhood mental health problem called the “Common Core Syndrome“:
“And as a result of our rigorous, gritty approach, students will experience increased anxiety, stress, behavioral problems, sleep deprivation, respiratory issues, self-destructive and self-abusive behaviors.”
“The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education.” Stephanie Feeney, University of Hawaii Childhood Development Professor and chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
The age inappropriate and confusing nature of Common Core standards was ridiculed by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert report. Here is the sample Common Core math problem Stephen used in his report.
“Common Core testing prepares our students for what they’ll face as adults: Pointless stress and confusion.” Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report April 2014
Shaming a Second Grader for Failing to Show their Work
Second graders are still in the magic thinking phase of childhood. But Common Core ignores the research on child development and treats children as if they were little robots to be filled with facts rather than human beings to be filled with hopes and dreams. Here is an example of a Common Core problem given to a Second Grader who was labeled a failure for getting the problem wrong.
“Irini has a favorite day of the week. She chose this day because it is the only day that has an i in it. What is Irini’s favorite day? Show your work in the tank.”
The Second Grader got the correct answer (Friday) but was marked down for “failing to show his work.”
Math, Grade 2, c) 2013 by Scholastic Teaching Resources
In the above example, a second grader got the correct answer but she failed the problem because she failed to show her work in the Think Tank. What would you have put in the Think Tank? The teacher gave the Second Grader a clue which was to “Look at calendar.” Apparently what the teacher wanted the student to do was list all of the days of the week in the Think Tank by looking at a calendar. The student was then supposed to circle the “i” in Friday indicating that Friday was the correct choice. Such a task of showing such logical detailed work might be appropriate for a high school student. But asking a Second Grader to do this task is developmentally inappropriate – especially for little boys who are as much as two years behind little girls in brain development in the Second Grade.
Common Core sets academic standards that very few children can meet.
Sadly, any teacher who fails to go along with this Common Core child abuse program is labeled as being against education reform and is in danger of losing their job.... Many caring teachers simply quit rather than subjecting their students to such abuse. This is why Ed Reform is also about attacking experienced teachers.
Early Childhood Educators Speak Out Against Common Core
Common Core promotes a military boot camp style of instruction called Direct Instruction also known as Drill and Kill. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young childrens learning by turning them against school at an early age. More than 500 early childhood professionals signed a statement opposing Common Core. The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative was signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers, including many of the most prominent members of those fields. Their statement reads in part: “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…. The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades….”
The statement’s four main concerns are based on abundant research on child development—facts that all parents and policymakers need to be aware of:
1. The K-3 standards will lead to long hours of direct instruction. This kind of “drill and kill” teaching will push active, play-based learning out of many kindergartens.
2. The standards will intensify the push for more standardized testing, which is highly unreliable for children under age eight.
3. Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other crucial areas of young children’s learning: active, hands-on exploration, and developing social, emotional, problem-solving, and self-regulation skills—all of which are difficult to standardize or measure but are the essential building blocks for academic and social accomplishment and responsible citizenship.
4. There is little evidence that standards for young children lead to later success. Many countries with top-performing high-school students provide rich play-based, nonacademic experiences—not standardized instruction—until age six or seven.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the foremost professional organization for early education in the U.S. Yet it had no role in the creation of the K-3 Core Standards. The Joint Statement opposing the standards was signed by three past presidents of the NAEYC—David Elkind, Ellen Galinsky, and Lilian Katz—and by Marcy Guddemi, the executive director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development; Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld of Harvard Medical School; Dorothy and Jerome Singer of the Yale University Child Study Center; Dr. Marilyn Benoit, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and many others. The harm that Common Core is inflicting on children and elementary schools is enormous. Dr. Carla Horwitz of the Yale Child Study Center notes that many of our most experienced and gifted teachers of young children are giving up in despair. “They are leaving the profession,” says Horwitz, “because they can no longer do what they know will ensure learning and growth in the broadest, deepest way. The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”
This is a 25 minute video by Dr. Megan Koschnick a Child Developmental Psychologist at Notre Dame explaining why Common Core standards are not developmentally appropriate for young children.
Common Core Standards and Tests being Developed for Preschool Children
Not content to control merely Kindergarten through 12th Grade Learning, Common Core advocates are planning a “cradle to grave” set of education standards to include both preschool and college level national standards. According to the billionaires, it is never too soon to get your toddler career and college ready.
Arne Duncan has said that we should be able to look a Second Grader in the eye and tell them if they are “career and college ready.” Of course, we will also need to explain to them what a college is and what a career is.
Public Openness versus Corporate Secrecy
Under the prior Washington State learning standards and high stakes tests, parents had a legal right to review the standards and review the test questions given to their child. Teachers also had a right to review the questions that their students would be subjected to. However, because Common Core is copyrighted and so are the Common Core tests, neither parents or teachers are allowed to see the actual test questions of the two Common Core tests (SBAC and PARCC).
The State of New York actually had to pay private corporations to get them to realize just some of the Common Core test questions given to students in New York in the past couple of years. Keep in mind that the federal government paid these private corporations (SBAC and PARCC... both of which are basically Pearson) hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the Common Core tests. So the idea that we need to pay again for a test that we as tax payers have already paid for is absurd.
Common Core is Set in Stone
Here is a quote from Diane Ravitch on this inability to revise bad standards: “Another problem presented by the Common Core standards is that there is no one in charge of fixing them. If teachers find legitimate problems and seek remedies, there is no one to turn to. If the demands for students in kindergarten and first grade are developmentally inappropriate, no one can make changes. The original writing committee no longer exists. No organization or agency has the authority to revise the standards. The Common Core standards might as well be written in stone.” Diane Ravitch http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/
Common Core standards, curriculum and tests force all kids into the same academic track... a track that does not actually serve any students. The standards are very poorly written and are developmentally inappropriate... especially for very young children. The standards are missing many important components. Finally, the standards are set in stone and there is no way to fix them.
What is Next?
Now that we understand that Common Core is not developmentally appropriate, it the next section we will take a closer look at the actual common core math standards and curriculum. Take a deep breathe... Things are about to get pretty ugly.