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Whose Side are you on in the Common Core Standards War Against Kids?

The Common Core Wars are heating up.  Today we will write about one battle brewing over at Diane Ravitch’s site.  Ms. Ravitch published a small posting entitled 

In Defense of the Common Core Standards:

 

 

download (40)

 

 

Roz Linder is tired of reading uninformed rants against the Common Core standards. She says most of the comments come from people who have never read them.

She says that it would be a worthy exercise to read the Common Core standards as informational text before making unfounded claims about what they recommend.

You can find them here. Please read them.

 

Most of the readers who took the time to read Ms. Linder’s blog were clearly unimpressed with her defense of the standards and her writing skills.  From Don’t Throw out Baby Macbeth: Common Core says think bigger, better, and beyond the book:
This is the official blog of Dr. Rozlyn Linder, an academic, Language Arts Specialist, former elementary, high schojournalism teacher, and all-around rabble rouser. Interested in with how we equip students to compete in an global community that grows increasingly flatter every millisecond, this blog is about exploring the practical application of digital communication pedagogy and Common Core standards.Situated at the intersection of cultural, racial, social, and digital literacy, this blog is all about fostering and supporting the recognition that we don’t teach in your grandad’s America, and being happy about that. Let’s stop telling students what to think or belive, but prepare students to think critically and often. Knowledge. Get some.  (MEW note: printed directly from the site, typos intact).

Dr. Linder writes:

Throw in the opportunity to read informational text about his plays, to explore themes and central idea, to stop being told what to think and just be given the tools to think. We have those tools nicely packaged…Common Core.

With stories emerging every day about teachers lamenting having to use them and questioning their effectiveness, I wondered why Dr. Linder (a former teacher according to her biography) supports them.  It looks as if she has become a capitalist offering her services to district so teachers/administrators can learn implementation techniques.  From her website:

Ready to bring professional learning to your city, school, or district? Email us atscheduleme@rozlinder.com for a customized quote or info@rozlinder.com for more information or questions. 

I didn’t see any of Ravitch’s readers writing about this possible conflict of interest in her positive reviews of CCSS. I applaud Dr. Linder for her enthusiastic support of the standards and that she can now be paid for helping districts to implement them.  The readers took her to task for her views on Common Core in the comment section.  An interesting comment came from a now famous ex-teacher in the education reform circles:

Kris Nielsen

Read them and was named a “specialist” at one of my schools. Here’s my take…freshly pressed:http://mgmfocus.com/2012/12/18/this-is-how-democracy-ends-an-apology/

Mr. Nielsen was the teacher who garnered much attention from his resignation letter sent to his North Carolina school district.  He entitled it “I Quit” and he spelled out the reasons which included his inability to teach students utilizing Common Core standards.  He speaks to Dr. Linder’s praise of Common Core standards with his experience as a teacher and former CCSS facilitator. He DID read the standards.  He was “for the standards before he was against them” and he explains how he came to the realization that CSSSis misguided in This is How Democracy Ends–An Apology:

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Almost a year ago, I offered my time to the middle school at which I was employed to give a two-night presentation that promised to ease parents’ concerns about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP).  I was given kudos by my boss, my coworkers, and many of those parents.  We talked about the future, the upcoming tests by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and we even did some hands-on math demonstrations.  It was a good time for me, and I hope those parents can say the same.  My message was simple: trust us–we got this!

Some of them were still skeptical, and they should be praised for that skepticism.

First, I want to offer you my apologies.  It wasn’t long after my presentation that I had a crushing realization that the entire thing (minus the hands-on stuff) was completely misguided.  I felt like a flip-flopper, but I’ve always valued the truth more than feeling good.  So, I’m here to clear the air.  The truth hurts and it should start scaring the hell out of you, because your children are your most precious gift and you will do anything to protect them.

The whole reason I was part of the team that put those presentations together was to ease your worry about the changes that were coming.  I’m here to retract everything I said.  You should be worried.  Very worried!

I was wrong.  The Common Core State Standards is a sham, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an instrument of devastation, and it’s all run by the process you see in the following Venn diagram (don’t you love Venn diagrams?):

Venn
(MEW note: For better diagram clarity, visit Nielsen’s website).

Before I start sounding too nutty, let me get down to the reality.  You’ll see that I’m not exaggerating.

America has long been known–despite our problems–as the country of freedom, innovation, and wealth.

There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is our democratic and free public education system. Prior to NCLB in 2002 and Race to the Top eight years later, standardization was limited to SAT and ACT tests, NAEP and PISA tests, and graduation exams for Advanced Placement courses.  We valued music, art, drama, languages and the humanities just as much as valued science, math, and English (for the most part).  We believed in the well-rounded education.

Now, the Common Core State Standards has one goal: to create common people.  The accompanying standardized tests have one purpose: to create standardized people.  Why?  Because the movers and the shakers have a vested interest in it.  It’s about money and it’s about making sure all that money stays in one place.

It’s been happening for a few years already.  StudentsFirst, ALEC, the Walton and Broad and Gates Foundations, and other lobbying groups have created a false crisis in American education.  They want you to believe that America is in sad educational shape so that they can play the hero.  However, what they’ve begun is a snowball effect of legislation that devastates public education, teachers, and an already underfunded school system so that they can replace the public system, the unions, and the government employees with private systems that promise to pay less, bust unions, and remove benefits and pensions.
Teach For America is a prime example of a way to steal government funding, place it in the hands of private corporations, and remove that pesky career (tenure) teacher problem.  It’s worked like a dream–the average TFAteacher stays in the classroom for about 2-3 years.  Only a few remain for 5 or more years.  So, the new American teacher is a mass-produced, temporary worker in an ongoing assembly line.  Cheaper?  Usually.  And they don’t complain about pay, pensions, or benefits, since this is just a step in their career ladders.

Which means that students don’t have highly-qualified and seasoned teachers leading their learning anymore.  Even worse that that, TFA teachers are prepared and trained with test data as the be-all-to-end-all of priorities.  These teachers only know effectiveness by the scores their students receive on standardized tests.

Cooperation? Collaboration? Creativity? Communication? Critical thinking?  Life skills?  Only if there’s time (which there isn’t) and don’t expect it to be integrated or cohesive.  That’s not what the training is for.  Our students are now part of a larger plan–to prepare them for the “college and career readiness” laid out by the “job creators” on Wall Street–the ones that want your kids to understand that a job is what they’re trained for and that they are lucky to have, so stop whining about your pensions and benefits.  And forget about belonging to one of those pesky unions–we will have outlawed them completely by then.

But more importantly, all of the skills linked above lead our students to be profound, critical, and meaningful participants in a modern democracy.  Some would argue that our days as a free country for the people and by the people are limited, and running out fast.  If we continue to support the path that our nation’s educational system is on, we will speed up the end of our democracy.  When students are forced to learn for the sake of a score and are denied the opportunity to think and reason and question and appreciate the world in which they live, they are all the more easy to control and deny basic rights.

It’s already happening.  I despise watching people discuss and debate issues in this country these days.  No one knows how to do it.

America did not become what it is today because of common people.  We celebrate our diversity, exceptionality, and bravery at the same time that we are attempting to bury those traits.  The world is following our educational models of the past few decades at the same time that we are turning our backs on those successful models.  We are digging a grave for our democratic process at a time when we should be paying extra special attention to keeping it healthy.

Our next generation of learners can save us and keep us strong through their diversity, ingenuity, creativity, friendliness, cooperation, and forward thinking.  And their dreams.  The Common Core State Standards, standardized tests, and privatized teacher corps are stifling those dreams.  Our democracy will ultimately be the victim.

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In the Common Core Wars, I think I’ll join Mr. Nielsen’s army.  Skepticism about unproven/untested theories being taught to students while others cash in on questionable practices should be forefront in these battles.

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