Monday, March 10, 2014

Common Core Curriculum...the Politcal Hot Button

The Common Core Curriculum is sure to be one of the political hot buttons during this year's election.  This is just one of many articles I will be posting regarding the pros and cons, from the supporters and the opposition on Common Core.  This particular one actually contains a lot of hyperlinks to other articles with quite a bit of information.  Please start posting your opinions and thoughts, keeping in mind this site is open to staff, teachers, parents AND students.  Please debate respectfully.  Thank you.
Common Core: Myths and Facts

March 4, 2014
By Amy Golod
U.S. News

As the new standards roll out across the country, myths and misconceptions abound.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have already adopted the Common Core State Standards, which were released in 2010 by the bipartisan National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. But as the K-12 educational standards are rolled out across the country, misconceptions abound.

“The Common Core State Standards began with the idea that math in Massachusetts is not any different from math in Maryland, and now politics are involved,” says Chris Minnich, executive director of the CCSSO.

Supporters of the new standards tout the fact that teachers from any part of the country can share ideas, and hope that if students move across state lines, they will have a smooth academic transition. Despite the potential for greater national unity among public school districts and bipartisan support at the outset, since the Federal government has voiced support for the standards, there is opposition, Minnich points out.

[READ: The History of Common Core]

Here are some of the most prevalent myths – and the facts – about Common Core.

Myth: The Common Core State Standards are a federally mandated curriculum.

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act forbids the Federal government from intervening in school curriculum development. States independently adopted the Common Core, a set of math and English Language Arts standards for K-12 students to reach by the end of each grade level. School districts design the curricula, and teachers create their own methods for instruction, selecting the resources best tailored to their lessons.

Confusion about what part the federal government plays in Common Core may stem from President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, which awarded more than $4 billion in federal grants to 19 states that demonstrated a commitment to education reform and innovation. Race to the Top applicants who agreed to adopt the Common Core standards had a small number of points (40 out of 500) added to their score, since the Core standards align with Race to the Top’s goals. While some right-leaning groups reject the standards, calling them an example of government overreach, other traditionally conservative groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support them.

“There were several myths that kept rising to the top,” says Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and vice president of education and workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. But the Common Core is not a federal takeover of education, she points out. “If that was the case the Chamber wouldn’t support it,” she says.

Myth: The Common Core State Standards mandate more student testing.

There will be new Common Core-aligned exams to measure student progress. According to the Common Core website, these exams measuring student progress will merely replace current year-end standardized tests.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are still developing the new tests, so they will not be administered until 2015.
Teachers feel pressure to uphold both the old and new standards since the 2014 assessments are not aligned with Common Core, explains Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. In certain places, teacher evaluations are based partly on student test scores. Until the transition to the Common Core is complete, some states are adjusting how they link teacher evaluation to student performance.

In Florida, for example, public school students in Broward County will continue to take Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. Since Florida is part of Race to the Top, it is required to use student test results when assessing teachers. In the past, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation reflected the school-wide average of reading and math scores. This year, evaluations will be tied only to the scores of the students a teacher instructs, says Marie DeSantis, executive director of instruction and interventions at Broward County Public Schools.

Myth: The Common Core State Standards de-emphasize literature.

Unless college students major in literature, they will spend most of their time reading complex, non-fiction informational texts. One of the over-arching goals of the Common Core is to improve students’ critical and analytical reading skills. The Common Core mandates that by Grade 12, 70 percent of reading assignments across all subjects use informational texts and 30 percent use literary ones. So while the change may be most noticeable in English Language Arts courses, it applies to subjects like history and science as well.

American literature is still an integral part of high school curricula. In Grades 11 and 12, for instance, Common Core standards require that students “demonstrate knowledge of 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century foundational works of American literature.” They must read stories, poems and dramas, including at least one play by Shakespeare.

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University and a member of a Common Core K-12 Standards Development Team, believes that it is vital students read classic literary and historical texts so they become culturally literate. He says the Common Core should include a required reading list, so teachers can provide a uniform literary and historical foundation to students.

“If you care about the English literary tradition, and if you think that these books… form an inherent tradition that is an essential part of being an American, of our patrimony, our history, our values, you will put it on the syllabus,” he says. Other teachers question the necessity of teaching “old, classic” texts and prefer to assign more contemporary reading because they believe students better relate to it, he says.

Myth: The Common Core State Standards are “one-size-fits-all.”

Some have complained that the Common Core standards will lower the achievement rates in high-performing schools, bringing education down to a “common denominator” countrywide. But as the introduction to the English Language Arts standards points out, teachers still have the flexibility and responsibility to customize instruction depending on their students’ abilities. “The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations,” the introduction reads. “No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom.”

A misconception which arose early in the development of the standards was that “Common Core would mean a uniform and standard set of instruction that would negate the need for gifted and talent programs, which is obviously not true,” says Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a national coalition of urban public school systems. While some people worry that Common Core sets the bar too low, others are concerned that lower-performing students may struggle to keep up. “Some parents and teachers find the Common Core too challenging. It’s a fair point. How challenging do we want our schools to be?” asks David Conley, professor at the University of Oregon, founder and CEO of the Educational Policy Improvement Center, and co-chair of the Common Core State Standards Initiative Validation Committee.

The aim of the Common Core is to encourage students to rise to the academic occasion.
“The Common Core is about raising the bottom half,” says Common Core Development Team member Bauerlein. “One problem is the broader issue of trying to equalize school situations. We need to do so, but we will never equalize home situations.”

Myth: The Common Core State Standards are not researched-based.
Perhaps due to either the perceived weakness or rigor of Common Core, critics have faulted the process of writing and finalizing the standards, arguing that there was not enough trial before implementation.

“The standards represent an amalgamation and integration of a dozen years of research and practice,” confirms Conley. The English standards were based on the NAEP frameworks in reading and writing, “which draw on extensive scholarly research and evidence,” representatives state on the Common Core website. Mathematics standards “draw on conclusions from TIMSS and other studies of high‐performing countries that the traditional US mathematics curriculum must become substantially more coherent and focused in order to improve student achievement.”

“It is a misconception that [the standards] were experimental or should go through a field testing or validation before they were used,” Conley says. “The idea that they shouldn’t be used with students should not be believed.”


Anonymous said...

Jennifer Abell said...

Just wanted to apologize for the delay in your comment posting. You were not being censored. It was because you posted anonymously AND you posted a video link it went to the spam box.

Jennifer Abell said...

Just wanted to apologize for the delay in your comment posting. You were not being censored. It was because you posted anonymously AND you posted a video link it went to the spam box.

Anonymous said...

It is a fact that if the state does not adopt CCC, the federal government will withhold any money going to that state. That is why 45 states have adopted it, because they put their kids over politics. I review my kids work all of the time, and the math is a joke. The kids are no longer reading classic novels, and reading a lot less than prior to CCC, the things I see being taught to my son is disgusting, keep education and politics out of my religion. Forcing one religion over another is not the job of the government. I see actual assignments posted all over the internet (!/groups/631223740256334/), teaching racism, rewriting the Constitution, etc. and it is all part of CCC. I know each state has some control over what is taught, but the federal govt uses their grant money to "encourage" states to adopt it. although Common Core is voluntary for states to adopt, the federal government has had a role in encouraging them to adopt the standards.

Excerpt from Politifact: To get grants from Race to the Top -- Obama’s signature education program -- or waivers from the mandates of No Child Left Behind -- an education reform law adopted under President George W. Bush -- states have to prove they have standards to prepare students for college and work. They don’t have to adopt the Common Core Standards, but that works as one way to qualify for grants or waivers.

There was a rush by states to adopt Common Core by August 2010 because establishing standards won them points in the competition for a share of the billions in Race to the Top grants.

Tom McCarthy, a spokesman for Pope, acknowledged "there really wasn’t a credible alternative to Common Core" at the time.

So, the federal government didn’t force Common Core on the states, but it did create incentives for states to adopt the standards.

I am fully immersed in this curriculum, and on the surface CCC appears to be a good move, but digging deeper into it, those good points, are only used to steer people away from the real reason for CCC. People have to do their research on their own and not rely on people connected to the Education system to get their information. Ask teachers and other parents, off the record, like I have, and they will tell you a totally different story then if they were on the record. Teachers fear talking against it because the unions and BoE will come down on them. So anyone running for BoE that is for CCC does not have my vote, and I will continue to campaign against it, as I see what it is teaching our kids, it is not making them smarter and able to compete with other kids from around the World, it is dumbing it down. Kids don't even bring their schoolwork home anymore nor do they bring books home to study, it is as if the schools are trying to keep the parents from knowing what their kids are doing in school. They know most parents are too busy to engage in their child's education, well I am not one of those parents. I see what is being taught with my own eyes and if I could afford it, I would either home school my child or put him in private school. Parents need to get involved (!/groups/PEACCS/).