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robertogreco : edwardkennedy   1

The Common Core Commotion
"We can assume that if Goals 2000 or NCLB or any of the other reform programs had been effective, the reformers could congratulate themselves for a job well done and go off to find another line of work. They haven’t, which brings us to the third reason that educational reform is an enterprise without end. 

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

And so, after 40 years of signal failure, the educationists have brought us the Common Core State Standards. It is a totemic example of policy-making in the age of the well-funded expert."

"The foundation’s generosity seems indiscriminate, reflecting the milky centrism of its founder. Evidently Bill Gates doesn’t have a political bone in his body. His intellectual loyalty lies instead with the ideology of expertise. His faith is technocratic and materialist: In the end he believes the ability of highly credentialed observers to identify and solve problems through the social sciences is theoretically limitless. “Studies” and “research” unlock the human secret. This is the animating faith of most educationists, too. All human interactions can be dispassionately observed and their separate parts identified, isolated, analyzed, and quantified according to some version of the scientific method. The resulting data will yield reliable information about how and why we behave as we do, and from this process can be derived formulas that will be universally applicable and repeatable.

“One size fits all” may be a term of mockery used by people who disdain the top-down solutions of centralized power; in the technocratic vision, “one size fits all” describes the ideal.

A good illustration of the Gates technocratic approach to education reform is an initiative called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET. (DUH.) The effectiveness of a truly gifted teacher was once considered mysterious or ineffable, a personal transaction rooted in intuition, concern, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and professional ardor, combined in a way that defies precise description or replication. Such an old-fashioned notion is an affront to the technocratic mind, which assumes no human phenomenon can be, at bottom, mysterious; nothing is resistant to reduction and measurement. “Eff the Ineffable” is the technocrat’s motto."

"Exciting as it undoubtedly is for the educationist, MET research tells us nothing about how to improve the world that students and teachers inhabit. It is an exercise by educationists for educationists to ponder and argue over. Three hundred and thirty five million dollars can keep a lot of them busy."

"In the confusion between content and learning, the Standards often show the telltale verbal inflation that educationists use to make a simple idea complicated. The Standards for Reading offer a typical example. They come in groups of three—making a wonderful, if suspicious, symmetry. Unfortunately, many of the triplets are essentially identical. According to the rubric Key Ideas and Details, a student should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly.” Where one standard says the student must be able to “analyze the development of central ideas,” the next standard says the student should be able to “analyze” “how ideas develop.” One “key detail” is to “learn details.” Under Craft and Structure, the student should be able to “analyze” how “portions of text” “relate to each other or the whole.” Another says he “should cite specific textual evidence” and still another that he should “summarize the key supporting details.” All of this collapses into a single unwritten standard: “Learn to read with care and to explain what you’ve read.” But no educationist would be so simple-minded.

There are standards only an educationist could love, or understand. It took me a while to realize that “scaffolding” is an ed-school term for “help.” Associate is another recurring term of art with a flexible meaning, from spell to match, as when third graders are expected to “associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” This seems like students are being asked to spell vowels, but that can’t be right, can it? And when state and local teachers have to embody such confusing standards in classroom exercises, you’re likely to wind up with more confusion."


Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Now, it is hard to imagine a more traditionalist sentiment than that. Yet conservative Common Core activists single out Coleman as a particularly sinister adversary, perhaps for his potty mouth. The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not. "

"Conservative hostility to the Common Core is also entangled with hostility to President Obama and his administration. Joy Pullman, an editor and writer who is perhaps the most eloquent and responsible public critic of Common Core, wrote recently in “I wager that 90 percent of the debate over Common Core would instantly dissipate if states adopted the top-rated standards from, say, Massachusetts or Indiana and dropped the Obama administration tests.”

While the personal hostility to Obama might be overwrought, the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Standards has borne all the marks of the president’s other efforts at national persuasion."


The administration’s bullying and dishonesty might be reason enough to reject the Standards. The campaign has even begun to worry its natural allies, who are losing trust in assurances that the Common Core is an advance for progressive education. Educationists on the leftward edge point to its insistence that teachers be judged on how much their students learn. This bears an unappealing resemblance to NCLB requirements, and they worry it will inject high-pressure competition into the collegial environment that most educationists prefer. Worse, it could be a Trojan horse for a reactionary agenda, a return to the long-ago era when students really had to, you know, learn stuff.

“The purpose of education,” says … [more]
education  reform  edreform  anationatrisk  nclb  georgewbush  georgehwbush  ronaldreagan  barackobama  jimmycarter  money  policy  experts  commoncore  curriclum  2014  andrewferguson  via:ayjay  1990  2000  1979  departmentofeducation  edwardkennedy  tedkennedy  goals2000  1983  gatesfoundation  billgates  arneduncan  bureaucracy  markets  aft  nonprofits  centralization  standards  schools  publicschools  us  ideology  politics  technocracy  credentialism  teaching  howweteach  measurement  rankings  testing  standardizedtesting  abstraction  nonprofit 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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