Testing Abuse

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Common Core Standards-A disaster in the making


Common Core Standards-A disaster in the making

By Rog Lucido

Horace (Rog) Lucido, now retired, taught high school physics and mathematics for over thirty-eight years as well as being both a university mentor and master teacher. He is the California Central Valley coordinator for the Assessment Reform Network and cofounder of Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse (EPATA). He is the author of two books: Test, Grade and Score: Never More, 1993, and Educational Genocide: A Plague on our Children, 2010. He has written numerous articles on the impact of high-stakes testing as well as presenting workshops on Forgiving Learning.


It seems like education is on a never ending quest to be ‘reformed’. The current trend began with the successful USSR’s orbiting of Sputnik on October 4, 1957 and reached a crescendo in 1983 with the publication of ‘A Nation at Risk’. This flawed report spoke of a ‘rising level of mediocrity’ in our schools when in fact the evidence it cited was greatly skewed towards that desired outcome. (http://www.edutopia.org/landmark-education-report-nation-risk Engendering public fear, the message continues today: ‘American students are behind those of many countries. Our dominance of military and economic strength is on the decline. We are losing our competitiveness.’ The root cause of this false conclusion was laid at the feet of our schools by the US corporate world. But when viewed from an international perspective our perceived ‘plight’ was due in fact not to schools but to American business and political failings.

The World Economic Forum researchers have concluded that the U.S. economic competitiveness has weaknesses. The report reads that the “weaknesses include the business communities' criticism of the public and private institutions, that there is a great lack of trust in politicians, and a lack of a strong relationships between government and business. And the U.S. debt continues to grow.” According to the World Economic Forum, student test scores on international tests in reading, mathematics and science were not even mentioned as connected to the weakening of the U.S.'s ability to compete. Period. (World Economic Forum Report, 2011/12 http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GCR_Report_2011-12.pdf ). Further, from renowned researcher Christopher H. Tienken in RANKINGS OF INTERNATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT TEST PERFORMANCE AND ECONOMIC STRENGTH: CORRELATION OR CONJECTURE? he states, “In the case of the United States, the data does not support the claim that a correlation exists between performance on international tests of mathematics and science and economic strength as measured by the Global Competitive Index.” http://journals.sfu.ca/ijepl/index.php/ijepl/article/view/110/44

With many studies demonstrating that 80 to 90 percent of student achievement is due to factors outside of school, how can we consider changes in our schooling as the solution to our economic problems?  Based on the principle that schools were the culprit, over the last thirteen years Congress and the 2001 administration charged ahead with a ‘plan’ that was thought to fix all of this. The plan’s fundamental paradigm was for each state to create a set of educational standards, ask educators to teach to those standards, test student mastery of those standards, report their results back to the US Department of Education, and determine if each state is progressing at a predetermined rate that would culminate in 2014 with all students being proficient in Mathematics and English Language Arts.

This ‘plan’ was the genesis of today’s high-stakes testing culture. They are called-high stakes tests because the scores are then used to judge students, teachers, schools, districts and states. These scores are not a valid way to make educational decisions.( see Educational Genocide- A Plague on our Children http://www.amazon.com/Educational-Genocide-Plague-Our-Children/dp/1607097184/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365025395&sr=1-1 ) If schools did not make adequate yearly progress on student proficiency percentages they were met with varying degrees of sanctions. Districts, schools and teachers came under more and more restrictive and proscriptive mandates or their schools were reconstituted with new administrators and teachers with state ‘take-over’ as the ultimate punishment.

This ‘plan’- never tested for its effectiveness before enactment- was the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The results are now evident: academic stagnation. It did not work. Recent attempts at NCLB revival include waivers directed at states and districts escaping the law’s harsh sanctions as well as stimulation with the ‘Race to the Top’ funding program. Both of these are hinged on states accepting a set of national education standards called the ‘Common Core Standards’ along with national testing to follow. Once again this new ‘plan’ was never piloted and has no evidence of success.

The Common Core Standards were developed by a collusion of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with primary funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other business and special interests. So, here we are again trying to solve an ill-defined business problem with an untested school solution, neither of which comes from educators.  Common Core was not ‘state-led’ as many were led to believe.  It is corporate centered not student centered.

Emmett Mc Groarty, executive director of American Principles in Action said that states were "herded" into adopting the standards with no time to deliberate on their worth. He called the standards ‘mediocre’ and costly to implement. Former Texas state commissioner Robert Scott stated, “And it was about control totality from some education reform groups who candidly admit their real goal here is to create a national marketplace for education products and services.”

The US Department of Education (USDOE) is forbidden by law from creating a national curriculum. Curriculum is a states’ right. USDOE got around this by making acceptance of a national set of standards the critical criteria for states applying for millions of dollars in both Race to the Top funding and NCLB waiver requirements. Essentially saying, “Accept these standards or else you will not qualify.” On top of this legal chicanery, these standards are not all they are cracked up to be. By just evaluating two states standards The Pioneer Institute found:

‘Our analysis of Common Core’s mathematics and ELA standards, and the evidence we provide, do not support the conclusion drawn by many other reviewers that Common Core’s standards provide a stronger and more challenging framework for the mathematics and English language arts curriculum than (or an equally as challenging framework as) California’s and Massachusetts’ standards have provided. Common Core’s standards will not prepare more high school students for authentic college-level work than standards in these states have prepared. To the contrary, they may lead to fewer high school students prepared for authentic college-level work. We offer these recommendations to states that are adopting Common Core’s standards.’


Not only are California’s current standards considered the best in the nation by the Fordham Foundation and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research but they are on par with those of the most respected educational systems in the world. In testimony about the Common Core,  R. James Migram, Ph.D.You +1'd this publicly. Undo emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University,  stated, “Also among these difficulties are that a large number of the arithmetic and operations, as well as the place value standards are one, two or even more years behind the corresponding standards for many if not all the high achieving countries.”

Of what value is there for all the states in the US to have the same standards? Student mobility between states is between 1 and 3 percent-hardly a reason to have common standards. It would seem to follow that those states with a 'better' set of common standards would be more financially competitive than any other state. If you look at the top ten 'competitive' states http://www.siteselection.com/issues/2011/may/comp-awards.cfm and examine the criteria on which their 'competitiveness' is based (bottom of page), you will not see even a reference to any educational attainments by their students, k-12 nor university!


Why would we then think that if the US had a common set of standards, i.e. ‘common core’, across all of our states that this would be the hallmark which would raise our status in comparison with other countries in our passion to be ‘globally competitive’? As far as global competitiveness is concerned, having a set of national standards does not make one country any more successful than any other. As an example, in California alone we have over 1000 school districts and each one of them has used California’s world class standards for over 10 years. Yet even with this commonality and quality, California has not distinguished itself above every other of the 50 states-each of which has their own set of state standards. If you consider each California school ‘district’ as a state, even having common high quality standards is not the solution to improving student learning. The quality of standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones.” http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/04/18/28loveless_ep.h31.html

There are 46 states that had originally accepted the common core standards and the associated testing to follow. But as of March 3 of this year there are thirteen of these states in various stages of rescinding their original approval. https://www.box.com/s/0jcz6zo5otf0ojtfe3tu . Each state has its own reasons. Some are based on principles such as:

-The common core is an infringement on states’ rights.

-States were pressured into signing on without time to consider all ramifications.

-There is no evidence that these national standards will improve student learning.

Some reasons are based on enormous taxpayer costs. These new standards would require new textbooks, ancillary materials, ongoing teacher training time and the expensive salaries of outside consultants. And as if this is not costly enough, the testing alone is being developed using an online format where students will be tested while sitting at a computer. Districts will be required to take on the cost of upgrading schools’ computer and network capabilities to handle the testing. In California alone Education Reporter states that ‘The California Department of Education estimates that Common Core will cost the state about $760 million. Outside estimates place California's fiscal commitment at up to $1.6 billion. California already expects a $3 billion deficit at the end of fiscal year 2011, and a $10 billion deficit in 2012-13. In addition, General Fund revenues for 2011-12 are lower than expected, triggering a $2 billion cut to state programs beginning in January. "Adding up to a billion-and-a-half-dollar expenditure to implement national standards under these circumstances is fiscal madness," said Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute.’ http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2012/jan12/common-core-standards.html  

When you now include the costs encumbered by each of the other 45 states that accept these standards as well as adding to this the amount of our tax dollars the USDOE is using to bankroll the development of the national tests, this now becomes a multi-billion dollar enterprise. This is a dead end street.

What business would invest in a product to sell unless it had been thoroughly tested to operate and produce the desired outcome? Yet, the corporate world is willing promote this Common Core effort with no evidence of its effectiveness for the students, themselves or the country. Why would they do this unless, in the process of the Common Core development, distribution and use they would be able to garner great profits with little risk? The vast majority of the capital necessary to implement the Common Core forward is coming from our state and national taxes not their coffers. Our billions in education tax dollars are up for grabs. New text books, ancillary materials, district/state pre-testing development to prepare for the national tests, teacher training and consulting services and more are the costs we will bear.

Californian’s need to become aware that all of this time, energy, and resources our schools will invest is coming from our classrooms and will provide no benefit to our students. Do not look for improved student engagement and learning. It will not happen.

Let these state officials know your thoughts and feelings about the Common Core Standards:

The Honorable Tom Torlakson
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
1430 N Street, Suite 5602
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901



Senator Carol Liu

Chair of Education Committee

State Capitol, Room 5097
Sacramento, CA 95814


Assembly Member Joan Buchanan

Chair of the Education Committee

State Capitol, Room 2148,

Sacramento, CA 94248-0016


What else can you do when Common Core comes into your community?


Corporate and education supporters always say that they require data to ‘inform their decisions’. So ask local school boards/administrators for data showing Common Core will prepare students for college and the workplace. The fact is THERE ISN’T ANY. Ask local school boards/administrators for data that shows Common Core will prepare students to compete in the global economy. Again, THERE ISN’T ANY.


They can’t give you data, so refuse to give them data OPT STUDENTS OUT OF Common Core TESTING. See: http://www.eduperspectivescv.org/opting-out