Save the SAT Writing Test

Dear Friends,

An informative article in the Wall Street Journal written by Naomi Schaefer Riley. Ms. Riley is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Save the SAT Writing Test

 Princeton and Stanford last week became the latest schools to drop the SAT essay requirement. The College Board made the section optional in 2016. Skeptics will applaud this essay’s demise as a return to a test that measures real aptitude. But the essay, introduced in 2005, turned out to be useful. Ditching it is another plan by colleges to make all standards of admissions subjective and easily rigged.

The writing test began in 2005 in order “to improve the validity of the test for predicting college success,” according to the College Board. A pilot program found that “scores on the new SAT writing section were slightly better than high school grades in predicting first-year college grades.”

There were problems with the exam. One MIT professor found students were rewarded for sheer length. Another criticism was that it wasn’t graded on accuracy. Students could make factual errors, or make things up.

In 2014 the College Board revised the essay test, asking students to read a passage and then answer a question with a persuasive argument using evidence from the text. Test-takers, their parents and guidance counselors criticized this new approach as well. There was too little time. It stressed students out. It raised the cost of preparation and of the test itself.

Princeton cited cost as its reason for eliminating the exam. But taking the essay part of the test adds only $14 to the registration fee, and poor kids can get waivers.

It is true that 25 minutes is not much time to write an essay, but one can discern a few things about a student’s command of grammar, vocabulary and logic from three paragraphs. True, grading a writing test is more subjective than scoring a multiple-choice test. But writing is a real skill, and colleges should measure it.

How will schools discern a student’s writing ability now? Primarily through application essays or papers graded by high school teachers. In other words, the applicants who get help from adults at home and at school will have the advantage. Parents, teachers or counselors can suggest themes that will appeal to admissions officers (hardship, discrimination, fighting for social justice), advise on writing structure and vocabulary, and proofread final submissions.

This kind of coddling continues in college, where students are encouraged to make use of campus writing tutors and then expect professors to let them submit multiple drafts and get feedback before incurring a real grade. Result: According to a 2016 survey released by PayScale, 44% of managers think “writing proficiency is the hard skill lacking the most among recent college graduates.”

If colleges really wanted to reduce applicants’ stress and stop wasting time and money, they might ask students to submit the SAT writing section instead of an application essay. Forget about the College Board; send the essay to the school’s freshman composition teachers for grading. That would put everyone on more equal footing and tell colleges something useful about their applicants.

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

What’s Wrong With Common Core Math?

Dear Friends,

Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist, has shared this article.

This is one of the best articles yet because it clearly explains what is badly wrong with Common Core Math. Written by Jane Robbins, an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principals project. Robbins takes most of her comments from Barry Garelick’s book. Garelick is an experienced middle-school math teacher from California.  If anyone knows about what it is like to be “in the trenches” watching students struggle with the ridiculous Common Core Math approach, Garelick knows.

 “What’s Wrong With Common Core Math?”

To read the complete article, please go to:  https://townhall.com/columnists/janerobbins/2018/06/05/whats-wrong-with-common-core-math-n2487580

Excerpts from this article:

“A royal mess.” This is how California middle-school math teacher Barry Garelick describes math education today, especially under the Common Core national standards. In his bookMath Education in the U.S.: Still Crazy After All These Years, and his presentations, Garelick punctures the progressivist/reform math balloon that has long loomed over American schools like the Hindenburg.

When studying for a teacher’s certificate after retiring from his first career, Garelick found that education schools teach a progressivist “groupthink” about math. “Discovery learning” works best, he was taught, as students work collaboratively to puzzle out problems while teachers “facilitate” rather than teach. And as he learned later, Common Core reinforces this philosophy.

Garelick explains the difference between traditional and progressivist approaches to math instruction. With traditional math, the teacher uses direct instruction to present a logical sequence to the entire class, demonstrating the computations and then having the students practice them. Students memorize key facts and standard algorithms, thus freeing up working memory to tackle more advanced concepts, and master each step before proceeding.

Though the traditional approach is demonstrably successful, progressivist reformers have labored for decades to discredit it. As Garelick relates, they claim it produces “rote memorization” with no real understanding, doesn’t teach “critical thinking,” and is inadequate for 21st-century needs (reformers never explain why necessary math skills change from one century to the next). 

Garelick argues that the trash-talking is simply slander. Traditional textbooks from the 1950s and 1960s didn’t rely on “rote memorization” and did contain clear explanations of concepts before proceeding. 

But the post-Sputnik panic saw the denigration of traditional math in favor of “a whole new way to teach math” – discovery learning, “conceptual understanding” rather than facts, etc. When this new way flopped, the pendulum swung again in the 1970s, back to the traditional approach.

Then came the alarmist 1983 A Nation at Riskreport. In response, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (a reformist outfit founded in 1920) produced new standards that were advertised as – guess what? – “a whole new way to teach math.”

But of course, as Garelick explains, the new way looked a lot like the previous new ways that failed. NCTM urged use of calculators in all grades and downplayed complex pen/paper calculations, long division, and memorization of standard algorithms. Direct instruction was disdained in favor of teacher-as-facilitator. This set of standards became the model for many states and for practically all schools of education.

As this philosophy took hold in many parts of the country, hapless children had to practice time-consuming, inefficient alternative strategies for solving problems rather than master the algorithms first to free up working memory for experimentation later.

As Garelick puts it, “It’s the arithmetic equivalent of forcing a reader to keep his finger on the page, sounding out every word with no progression of reading skill.” And they had to explain their work in narrative paragraphs.

Garelick also addresses the progressivists’ requiring children to solve problems of a type they’ve never seen before, theoretically as a means of showing insight and understanding. Students struggle to figure this out (“productive struggle,”as touted by progressivists), much as a non-swimmer struggles to reach the side of the pool without drowning. Even if he survives, he likely still doesn’t know how to swim.

…For example, the emphasis on problem-solving and perseverance signals the swimming-pool approach, and the requirement to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others signals both group work and written explanations of computations. 

Even worse, Garelick says, is Common Core’s delay in teaching the standard algorithms until long after students are thoroughly confused by alternative approaches. And although the standards’ authors have publicly claimed that the algorithms may be taught earlier, most teachers will follow the dictates of the standards, especially when the all-important tests will assume that progression.

…And to the objections of the education establishment he simply responds: “Mistakes should not be clung to just because of the time spent making them.” 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Proficiency Based Learning is a Cruel Experiment That Has Failed

Dear Friends

An informative article on proficiency-based learning. Written by Mike Bernier, a public school teacher, published in the Sun Journal. Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

 

“Proficiency-based learning is a cruel experiment that has failed”

Never, in my 30 years of high school teaching, have I seen an initiative do so much damage to student learning and motivation as I have with Maine’s Proficiency-Based Learning Diploma. It is a piece of feel-good legislation that was poorly conceived and enacted.

Fortunately, the Legislature is now considering repealing PBL. I hope others will join me in respectfully encouraging legislators to do so.

PBL is short-changing students in preparing them for the real world, contrary to what supporters claims. Why? In my district (which is not in the same town where I live), under PBL, there are no homework deadlines and exams can be retaken, sometimes over and over again. In addition, school attendance doesn’t count toward grades or graduation.

This is what I have observed in my classes since PBL’s implementation:

Before PBL, approximately 9 percent of my students didn’t complete homework; today the average is about 33 percent. (Recently, 41 percent of my students failed to complete a 20-minute vocabulary assignment.) Yet, I am still required to accept late work within a 10-day window.

Because of that, cheating and plagiarism are on the rise. Before PBL, approximately 8 percent of my students missed class on any given day; today the average is about 18 percent.

Last year’s graduating class had approximately 291 graduates, up from 230 the previous year — a 26 percent gain. Why such an increase in one year?  And why did some graduates miss more than 25 days of school and still graduate?

I understand that schools are under pressure to improve the graduation rate, but it is disingenuous to say that PBL is improving student learning. Next, if students fail standards during regular classes, our district offers seven credit recovery programs, including summer school in which to recover lost standards. With so many opportunities to retake standards, some students no longer take classes seriously. Their reasoning is simple. “Why put all the effort in class when it takes so much less effort to earn standards in credit recovery?”

Far too many students are learning to “game the system” so they can graduate with as little effort as possible. That diminishes the value of a high school diploma and is unfair to those students who really do work hard, attend school and make every effort to succeed.

How does this prepare students for the real world? In the real world, effort, attendance and personal responsibility count. If I fail to show up to work, carry out my responsibilities, or meet my deadlines, I will be fired — and rightfully so. In effect, PBL is taking away the students’ responsibility for learning. Imagine how this will impact the labor force.

With PBL, we are treating high school students as if they are in elementary school. In essence, we are preparing them to fail.

Looking at the Sun Journal’s three-part series on PBL (April 15-17), it is interesting to note that many who support it are policy makers and administrators. I fail to see much support from parents, students or teachers. I suspect that it is because the view from the boardroom is sometimes different from the view from the classroom. Working at the grassroots level, teachers, parents and students understand the failings of PBL.

Using our children in this state-wide experiment is unethical, especially since there is no independent, long-term research or evidence to prove that PBL improves student learning. It is just not there. If we continue with PBL, we are putting an entire generation of Maine’s young people at risk.

 There are reasons why high-performing high schools are trying to retain the traditional grading system. It works. The Legislature needs to understand that our children’s futures depend on it.

http://www.sunjournal.com/proficiency-based-learning-is-a-cruel-experiment-that-has-failed/

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Bias Embedded In The Classroom

Dear Friends,

An informative article regarding biased teachings in our schools, written by Lance Izumi. Izumi is Koret senior fellow in education studies and senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute.  He is the author of the 2017 PRI book “The Corrupt Classroom.” Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“Bias Embedded In The Classroom”

While the antics of anti-Trump teachers, such as the recent viral video of a Southern California teacher beating a President Trump piñata, make headlines, classroom bias is much more deeply embedded, especially in the Common Core curriculum.

When the Obama administration pushed states to adopt the Common Core national education standards, states then adopted curricula aligned to those standards. Bias in Common Core-aligned curricula has become a critical problem.

Take, for example, the Common Core English standards.

Common Core mandated a 50/50 division between literary texts and so-called “informational” texts at every grade level.

The use of these “informational” texts has opened a huge avenue for states, school districts, and teachers to push ideological agendas under the guise of English and reading comprehension.

A substitute teacher in California recently showed me a fifth-grade lesson for the reading-comprehension component of her class that was based on an “informational” text that was clearly biased and one-sided.

The lesson focused on global warming, its effects, and who’s to blame.

According to the lesson, the Arctic is warming, and “scientists blame global warming for the Arctic thaw” and “predict that half the summer sea ice in the Arctic will melt by the end of this century.”  Seals, polar bears and native Inuit people will be the first victims.

Who is to blame for global warming? The lesson says: “Scientists say human activity is to blame for global warming.” Burning fossil fuels, “gives off gases that trap heat from the sun and add to the overheating of the Earth.” According to the lesson, “scientists say people need to limit their use of fossil fuels.”

Among the questions students are asked to answer after reading this “informational” text: “How could your life change if global warming continues as scientists think it will.”

Yet, despite the certainty of the lesson’s scientific declarations, the empirical evidence is much less clear.

It so happens that a federal court case is currently underway where oil companies are being sued over issues involving emissions regulations. In an interesting development, Judge William Alsup asked for tutorials on climate change to be submitted for his edification.

Last month, Princeton physics professor William Happer, a former director of energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy under President George H.W. Bush, NYU scientist Steven Koonin, a former undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy under President Obama, and MIT professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen submitted a comprehensive data-based tutorial for the judge.

According to these three eminent scientists, “The climate is always changing; changes like those of the past half-century are common in the geologic record, driven by powerful natural phenomena.” Indeed, they point out, “much of the alarming rise [in temperature] in the last few years is due to an El Niño condition.”

Further, say the scientists, human influences on the climate are a small 1 percent factor in the changes to the energy flows of Earth’s climate system. And, they note, “It is not possible to tell how much of the recent warming can be ascribed to human influences.”

Finally, the scientists conclude, “Contrary to the impression from media reporting and political discussions, the historical data . . . do not convey any sense that weather extremes are becoming more common globally.” Therefore, “today’s projections of future changes are highly uncertain.”

Although the fifth-grade lesson claims that humans and their use of fossil fuels cause global warming, these top scientists show that the evidence undercuts these claims.

The bottom line for parents and their children is that under Common Core, so-called “informational” texts are being used in English and reading lessons to push particular ideological points of view, without any concern for fairness and balance.

After reviewing the fifth-grade lesson on global warming, a California legislative staffer with extensive education policy experience termed the lesson “indoctrination” meant to “frighten children and turn them into committed leftwing activists.”  Such indoctrination demonstrates why parents should have school-choice tools that allow them to avoid public-school indoctrination and choose private schools that better meet the needs of their children.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/04/19/bias-embedded-in-the-classroom/

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

National Academic Standards Have Produced a Lot of Nothing

Dear Friends,

 An informative article on standardized reading and math tests and Common Core. Written by Jonathan Butcher, Butcher is a senior policy analyst in the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation. Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“National Academic Standards Have Produced a Lot of Nothing” 

…Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released the latest Nation’s Report Card, documenting results from the standardized reading and math tests taken every two years by 4th and 8th grade students. In both subjects, the national average scores remain essentially unchanged from 2015 for both grades (with the exception of a 2-point improvement in 8th grade reading). National average scores have now remained steady for more than a decade.   

Lawmakers who pour billions of taxpayer dollars into district schools every year should pause to consider the implications. 

First, supporters of the Common Core national academic standards have some explaining to do. As early as 2012, some said national standards could “potentially improve the performance of U.S. students” in math. Others said the standards would “help narrow the achievement gaps.” 

Neither has happened. Indeed, the latest results show a widening achievement gap. Students at the top end of the scale are scoring higher and those at the bottom are scoring lower than when the Common Core standards were first adopted.  

A more rigorous evaluation is needed to say the Common Core is the reason for the disappointing results. But the lofty claims about national standards have not been realized.

Notably, between 2003 to 2011, almost every state showed improvement in math scores on the Nation’s Report Card. Some states even recorded double-digit gains. Reading test results evidenced similar gains, although not quite as pronounced.

Scores stalled and then took a turn after that. Between 2013 and 2017, only five jurisdictions logged improvements in 4th grade math, and just three in 8th grade math. 

Writing for Education Next, Senior Editor Paul Peterson notes a similar phenomenon when test results are broken out according to racial subgroups. Test score gains were substantially larger between 2000 and 2009 than from 2009 to 2017. 

Trying to explain these disappointing results, some have pointed to economic trends, blaming the 2013–2015 score drop on the 2007 recession and subsequent sluggish recovery. This explanation is problematic because math scores went up sharply between 2000 and 2003, despite the 2001 recession (4thgrade readingscores also improved, though not quite as much). Scores also trended up after the recession in the early 1990s.

Inadequate funding is also likely not the culprit. Per student spending nationwide has increased since 2000.

One final caveat about these scores: Long-term trends are more important than the results from any one test. And whatever variations we see in 4th and 8th grade results disappear by 12th grade. In fact, 12th grade scores in math and reading have not changed since 1971. After decades of trying, Washington’s carousel of reform ideas and regular federal and state funding increases have not wrought any lasting improvement to the national average for students finishing high school…

https://tinyurl.com/y9kf7vf2

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Common Core Is Very Much Alive

Dear Friends,

An informative article written on Common Core by Nicholas Tampio, Mr. Tampio is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University.  He researches the history of political thought, contemporary political theory, and education policy. He is the author of Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press 2018). Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

Truth in American Education

“Common Core Is Very Much Alive”

This article was originally published at The Conversation and was republished here with their permission. DeVos said Common Core was ‘dead’ – it’s not

In a speech in Washington earlier this year, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called the education standards known as the Common Core a “disaster” and proclaimed: “At the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”

The reality, however, is that the Common Core is still very much alive. As indicated in a recent report from Achieve, 24 states have “reviewed and revised” their English and math standards under the Common Core. In some instances, such as in New York, the revised standards are known by a different name.

This is worth pointing out because, as a political scientist and as I argue in my new book, the Common Core has soured many people on public education and civic life in general. When one group of people decides the national education standards, other people feel alienated from the schools and the democratic process.

Criticism and praise

Many families oppose the Common Core and have refused to allow their children to take the associated end-of-year tests such as the PARCC, SBAC, ACT Aspire, or New York State Common Core 3-8 English Language Arts and Mathematics Tests. Critics argue that Common Core math expects students to justify their answers in ways that are “unnecessary and tedious.” Others note that the standards will not prepare many students to major in a STEM discipline in college. And for some scholars and parents, the “close textual reading” under Common Core makes learning a chore rather than a pleasure.

In 2013, then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the Common Core may “prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown versus Board of Education.” For Duncan and others, the Common Core promised to prepare all students to succeed in college, career and life.

Waning support

But that view did not align with popular support for the Common Core, which dropped from 83 percent to 50 percent between 2013 and 2016. For many parents and educators, the Common Core has made public education worse.

For critics such as author and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, the Common Core is “fundamentally flawed” because of the way that the standards were developed. Common Core work group members included more people from the testing industry than experienced teachers, subject-matter experts or early childhood educators. According to some early childhood health and education professionals, the standards conflict with research about how children learn and how best to teach them.

What political opponents said

When President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., stated that the Republican congressional majority had “kept its promise to repeal the federal Common Core mandate.”

As a candidate for president, Donald J. Trump tweeted how he had been consistent in his opposition to the Common Core and argued that the federal government should “Get rid of Common Core — keep education local!”

It seemed only a matter of time before many states moved away from the Common Core.

As of 2018, however, nearly every state that adopted the Common Core during the Obama administration has kept the most important features. Across the country, students will take end-of-year tests that align with the Common Core.

Why the standards are still here

Alexander’s claim that Congress has repealed the Common Core mandate is misleading. The federal government has made it an expensive gamble for states to adopt education standards that differ from the Common Core.

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, states that wish to adopt an alternative to the Common Core must now prove to the secretary of education that the standards are “challenging.”

According to the law, “each state shall demonstrate that the challenging state academic standards are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the State.” Most states adopted the Common Core as part of their “Race to the Top” applications during the Obama administration. Race to the Top gave an incentive to states to align high school graduation requirements and college entrance requirements with the new standards. States that keep the Common Core do not have to change anything to satisfy this provision. States that adopt new standards must prove to the secretary that high school graduates will be able to take credit-bearing courses as soon as they enter a public college or university.

In addition, the law requires states to adopt standards that align with “relevant State career and technical education standards.” The main Common Core reading standards are called the “college and career readiness anchor standards.” For states that want to meet this criterion of the law, the safest bet is to keep the Common Core.

States have a strong financial incentive to meet these criteria. The Every Student Succeeds Act directs approximately US$22 billion a year to states around the country, including over $700 million to Ohio, $1.6 billion to New York, $2 billion to Texas, and $2.6 billion to California. If a state fails to meet any of of the requirements of the law, “the Secretary may withhold funds for State administration under this part until the Secretary determines that the State has fulfilled those requirements.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved virtually all plans that include the Common Core or a slightly modified version. According to Education Week, even when states have revised the standards, “the core of the Common Core remains.”

https://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/common-core-is-very-much-alive/

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Will Fitzhugh: Common Core Close Reading and the Death of History in the Schools

 

Dear Friends,

An informative article on Common Core written by Will Fitzhugh, blogged by Diane Ravitch a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University, Ph.D. in the history of American education in 1975. Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“Will Fitzhugh:  Common Core Close Reading and the Death of History in the Schools”

[FROM DIANE RAVITCH:]  Will Fitzhugh is founder and editor of The Concord Review, which publishes outstanding historical essays by high school students. I have long been an admirer of the publication and of Will for sustaining it without support from any major foundation, which are too engaged in reinventing the schools rather than supporting the work of excellent history students and teachers. You can subscribe by contacting him at fitzhugh@tcr.org.

He [Will Fitzhugh] writes:

A few years ago, at a conference in Boston, David Steiner, then Commissioner of Education for New York State, said, about History: “It is so politically toxic that no one wants to touch it.”

 Since then, David Coleman, of the Common Core and the College Board, have decided that any historical topic, for instance the Gettysburg Address, should be taught in the absence of any historical context—about the Civil War, President Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg—or anything else. This fits well with the “Close Reading” teachings of the “New Criticism” approach to literature in which Coleman received his academic training. This doctrine insists that any knowledge about the author or the historical context should be avoided in the analytic study of “texts.”

 The Common Core, thanks to Coleman, has promoted the message that History, too, is nothing but a collection of “texts,” and it all should be studied as just language, not as knowledge dependent on the context in which it is embedded.

 Not only does this promote ignorance, it also encourages schools to form Humanities Departments, in which English teachers, who may or may not know any History, are assigned to teach History as “text.”  This is already happening in a few Massachusetts high schools, and may be found elsewhere in the country. 

 The dominance of English teachers over reading and writing in our schools has long meant that the great majority of our high school graduates have never been asked to read one complete History book in their academic careers.

 Good English teachers do a fine job of teaching novels and personal and creative writing, but it is a Common Core mistake to expect them to teach the History in which they have little or no academic background. Treating History as contextless “text” is not a solution to this problem.

 The ignorance of History among our high school graduates is a standing joke to those who think it is funny, and NAEP has found that only about 18% know enough to pass the U.S. citizenship exam.

 In The Knowledge Deficit, E.D. Hirsch writes that: “In a 1785 letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, aged fifteen, Jefferson recommended that he read books (in the original languages and in this order) by the following authors in History: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon [Anabasis], Arian, Quintus Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, and Justin.”

 We may no longer imagine that many of our high school students will read their History in Latin, but we should expect that somehow they may be liberated from the deeply irresponsible Common Core curriculum that, in restricting the study of the past to the literary analysis of “texts,” essentially removes as much actual History from our schools as it possibly can.

https://dianeravitch.net/2018/03/16/will-fitzhugh-common-core-close-reading-and-the-death-of-history-in-the-schools/

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Conservatives Erupt over Betsy DeVos Announcement: ‘Common Core Is Dead’

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Dr. Susan Berry, Dr. Berry is a conservative writer and contributor to Breitbart.com, she has a doctorate in psychology. She writes about cultural, educational, and healthcare policy issues. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“Conservatives Erupt over Betsy DeVos Announcement: ‘Common Core Is Dead’”

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues to struggle with the conservative base of the GOP as she again declares, “Common Core is dead.”

“I agree – and have always agreed – with President Trump on this: ‘Common Core is a disaster,’” DeVos allied herself with Trump last week during a major policy speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “And at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”

The secretary’s statement led Alex Newman of the Freedom Project to write:

Despite blasting federal overreach in education and making other statements sure to delight conservatives and constitutionalists, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued to mislead Americans on Common Core last week. Indeed, despite the dumbed-down national standards still being in place in almost every state, DeVos falsely claimed that Common Core was “dead” at the Department of Education.

In yet another address that at least superficially put forward sound statements reflecting the Constitution’s lack of mention of any federal role in education, DeVos has again failed to convince the base of her party that she actually believes this fact.

…Indeed, the education secretary gave a good conservative run-down of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations’ contributions to entrenching the federal government further into education policy via No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core:

Where the Bush administration emphasized NCLB’s stick, the Obama administration focused on carrots. They recognized that states would not be able to legitimately meet the NCLB’s strict standards. Secretary Duncan testified that 82 percent of the nation’s schools would likely fail to meet the law’s requirements — thus subjecting them to crippling sanctions.

The Obama administration dangled billions of dollars through the “Race to the Top” competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the “largest-ever federal investment in school reform.” Later, the Department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies — essentially making law while Congress negotiated the reauthorization of ESEA.

However, as Shane Vander Hart writes at Truth in American Education, the “reauthorization of ESEA,” i.e., the “bipartisan” Every Student Succeeds Act – engineered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) – essentially cemented Common Core into every state in the country:

Sure, the U.S. Department of Education is not actively pushing Common Core, they don’t need to. The standards and assessment consortiums don’t need to be funded anymore. The damage is done.

They don’t need to publicly push it because ESSA essentially codified Common Core.

At best, DeVos’s views on Common Core are murky, and conservatives have never been sold on her statement that she has “always agreed” with Trump that Common Core is a “disaster.” In fact, DeVos never was a fan of Trump and actually served as an at-large delegate of Common Core supporter John Kasich at the GOP convention in 2016.

American Principles Project senior fellows Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty write at Townhall:

Especially in her home state of Michigan, conservatives were discouraged by DeVos’s nomination because of her past support of Common Core and her efforts (through organizations she founded and/or funded) to thwart the parents who opposed them. She disavowed her previous support and then sought to put the issue to bed by simply declaringmistakenly, that “the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] . . . essentially does away with the whole argument about Common Core.”

As Robbins and McGroarty note, in April 2017, the secretary actually said during a Fox News interview, “There really isn’t any Common Core anymore.” 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act, which is in the process of being implemented now, essentially does away with the whole argument about Common Core,” she added.

DeVos’s pronouncements that Common Core is “dead” seem disconnected from reality to parents across the country.

Education Week reported, “at least 37 states” are still using the Common Core standards or its “rebrands” – renaming the Core with a state-friendly title – as of the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, Education Dive notes Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago – and one of the authors of the Core, says the standards are still in effect in 42 states.

“Even if Common Core were ripped out from the roots, the federally controlled government ‘education’ system in America would continue to dumb down and indoctrinate students on an industrial scale—literally threatening the future of the nation,” Newman writes.

In dulcet conservative tones, DeVos also announced during her AEI address that  federal mandates are not working to improve education. The thousands of parents fighting against Common Core in their states for years now have been saying that to establishment Republican and Democratic lawmakers – but to no avail.

DeVos herself, however, continues to plug ESSA – a federal mandate. “Under ESSA, school leaders, educators and parents have the latitude and freedom to try new approaches to serve individual students,” she said. “My message to them is simple: do it!” Vander Hart asserts DeVos should heed her own advice.

“That’s a nice sentiment, but what is Secretary DeVos going to do about it?” he asks. “If this is something she truly believed she would support the repeal of ESEA instead of touting it in its current form as the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

A big part of conservatives’ problem with DeVos is the fact that she has invited many followers of her close friend Jeb Bush to advise her. Bush has been a primary supporter of Common Core and school choice.

Robbins and McGroarty observe that while DeVos has declared Common Core “dead,” she has followed Bush’s lead in the areas of school choice – without detailing the mechanisms for bringing about the “choice,” and “digital” or “personalized” learning – which is a major platform for student data collection.

“She didn’t mention the central problem with [school choice],” the authors write. “[T]he danger that when the money follows the child, government regulations will be close behind to strip private schools of the characteristics that made them appealing to parents in the first place.”

The authors add:

[S]o-called personalized learning is actually depersonalized, computerized training rather than genuine education. It replaces a liberal arts education with pared-down workforce-development training that concentrates on “skills” corporations deem necessary for the (current) job market. It props children in front of computer screens that feed them curricula (probably not available for parental review) that children can click through without really learning anything. It indoctrinates children with government-approved attitudes, mindsets, and beliefs. It collects literally millions of data points on children that will allow the government and vendors to create profiles and algorithms that may control each child’s future life path. It minimizes human interaction, converting professional educators into data clerks.

Of course, ESSA is fully on board with digital learning and DeVos is fully on board with ESSA.

 Constitutionalists note that until DeVos can put into action the words she apparently believes make sense to Trump’s constituents, she will continue to have battles with both the left and the conservative wing of her own party.

“If DeVos is sincere about her philosophical rhetoric, she will devote her efforts to three things: freeing the states from all federal mandates to the extent she can under the law; working with Congress to revise ESSA to eliminate all mandates; and creating a workable plan to shut down her department,” Robbins and McGroarty write. “That would be something conservatives can cheer.”

Newman warns, however: “T]he fact that DeVos continues to dishonestly try to mislead Americans into believing Common Core is ‘dead’ should alarm everyone. It’s way past time to shut down the whole unconstitutional Education Department.”

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Historians Want to Put Events in Context. Common Core Doesn’t. That’s a Problem

Dear Friends,

Informative article written by Sandra Stotsky. Stotsky is a professor of education reform emerita at the University of Arkansas and holds the Twenty-First Century Chair in Teacher Quality. She served as editor of “Research in the Teaching of English” in the 1990s and has taught at the elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate level. She is the author of The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“Historians Want to Put Events in Context. Common Core Doesn’t.

That’s a Problem.”

For an October 2017 conference sponsored by an affiliate of the California Association of Teachers of English, I was invited to give an informal talk on a chapter in my book, The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum. Chapter 8 centered on how English teachers could create coherent sequences of informational and literary texts to address civic literacy.

I presented initial remarks on Chapter 8 and then asked for questions. But instead of questions about Chapter 8, the concerns were mostly about the requirement in Common Core’s English language arts (ELA) standards for English teachers to teach Founding documents. In particular, one teacher expressed at length the problems she was facing in teaching “The Declaration of Independence.” She wanted to know why English teachers were compelled to teach historical documents. Her academic background was not in history, and she was not the only one in the audience upset about this requirement. But something had happened.

The dialogue now taking place was not about the literature curriculum but about English teachers being required to teach historical documents—and without context, if they followed guidelines from the standards writers on “close reading.” The dialogue also touched on the “literacy” standards that content teachers were to address in order to teach reading and writing in their classes.

Why were “literacy” standards for other subjects in Common Core’s ELA document and what had researchers found on English teachers teaching “informational” texts (required by Common Core’s ELA standards) and on content teachers teaching reading and writing (required by Common Core’s “literacy” standards)? I sympathized with both English teachers who didn’t feel comfortable teaching foundational historical documents and history teachers who had presumably studied the context for documents now being taught by their English colleagues. Common Core’s ELA document makes clear that the motivation for these standards and requirements was the standards writers’ concern about the low reading skills of many American students graduating from high school.

As a response to teachers’ concerns at this conference, this essay first clarifies how the K-12 study of history ever got tangled up in Common Core’s ELA standards. It then explains why reading in a history class is not like reading in a literature class.

The story begins with the rationale for the contents of a documenttitled, “Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.” The bulk of the 66-page document is on English language arts standards. But the last seven pages provide “literacy” standards for the other subjects in grades 6-12. The introduction to the whole document justifies Common Core’s literacy standards on the grounds that college readiness means being able to read, write, and speak in all subject areas. That is the basis for entangling the study of history in the final version of Common Core’s ELA document.

The attempt to make English teachers responsible for teaching high school students how to read history, science, and mathematics textbooks relaxed after critics made it clear that English teachers could not possibly teach students how to read textbooks in other disciplines. Their criticism was supported by the common sense argument that teachers can’t teach students to read texts on a subject they don’t understand themselves, as well as by the total lack of evidence that English teachers can effectively teach reading strategies appropriate to other disciplines and thereby improve students’ knowledge in that discipline.

The absence of studies strongly implies there may be no credible research suggesting that subject teachers can effectively teach reading skills in their own classes in ways that improve student writing or learning. Not only are subject teachers reluctant to teach reading in their own classes (as the research indicates), there’s no evidence that even if they do, student writing or learning will be enhanced.

So how do secondary students learn how to read their history books or their science and mathematics textbooks? We will return to this hugely important question after we consider some possible reasons for the failure of the movement called Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum (RAWAC)—in the 1970s and later.

Common Core’s literacy standards are general statements of different purposes for reading and writing in any subject such as “Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.” The expectation is that subject teachers are to use the content of their subject to teach students how to read, write, and talk in their subjects, not the other way around.

Secondary school learning was turned on its head in 2010 without any public murmur probably because most subject teachers did not know they were being required to teach reading and writing in a document ostensibly designated for English and reading teachers. The National Council for the Social Studies apparently knew what the ELA standards writers intended, according to this History News Network article, but it did not communicate any concerns to its members so far as is known.

While the effort to make subject teachers responsible for assigning more reading to their students and/or teaching them how to read whatever they assigned sounded justifiable, it didn’t succeed for several reasons. First, why assign more reading if there were reasons for not assigning much reading to begin with (e.g., no textbooks available, students couldn’t read whatever textbooks were available on the topic, students wouldn’t do much homework)?

Second, history teachers were also unlikely to think in terms of “main idea” or “supporting details” in discussing what students had read about a specific topic. Instead, they would ask students to apply these general skills in topic-related language (e.g., what “claim” they are to evaluate) to expand students’ conscious knowledge base. Subject teachers use the specific content of their discipline in ways that require students to apply their thinking skills and prior knowledge to what they have been assigned to read or do.

Third, if students claimed they couldn’t read the assignment, other issues needed to be explored. How much reading had students been doing on the topic? Did they have any prior knowledge? Were they familiar with the vocabulary related to the topic? Students can absorb some of the vocabulary for a discipline-based topic by re-reading the material (as in history) or by working carefully with material named by these words (as in a science lab) without constantly consulting a glossary. But how to get students to do more re-reading is not the purpose of a standard. Getting students to address questions about particular topics in a discipline with adequate and sufficient information (i.e., to develop their conscious understanding of the topics) is one purpose of a standard.

Fourth, content teachers continued to see English teachers as teachers of writing (and literature), and themselves as teachers of specific subjects like math, science, or history.

Common Core’s literacy standards suggest that their writers do not understand the high school curriculum. That problem is also suggested by the titles offered in Appendix B of Common Core’s ELA Standards document as examples of the quality and complexity of the informational reading that history and other subject teachers could use to boost the amount of reading their students do and to teach disciplinary reading and writing skills.

While grades 9-10 English teachers may be puzzled about the listing for them of Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Second Virginia Convention,” Margaret Chase Smith’s “Remarks to the Senate in Support of a Declaration of Conscience,” and George Washington’s “Farewell Address”—all non-literary, political speeches— grades 9/10 history teachers may be even more puzzled by the examples for them. Among a few appropriate examples (on the history of indigenous and African Americans), we find E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, 16th Edition; Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; and Wendy Thompson’s The Illustrated Book of Great Composers. What history teacher would tackle excerpts from those books in the middle of a grade 9 or 10 history course?

The informational examples in Appendix B for grades 11/12 history teachers are even more bizarre. Along with a suitable text (Tocqueville’s Democracy in America), we find Julian Bell’s Mirror of the World: A New History of Art and FedViews, issued in 2009 by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. These two titles clearly don’t fit into a standard grade 11 U.S. history course or grade 12 U.S. government course. These examples are out of place not just in a typical high school history class but in a typical high school curriculum.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of Common Core’s approach to literary study is the advice given teachers by its chief writer David Coleman, now president of the College Board, on the supposed value of “cold” or “close” (non-contextualized) reading of historical documents like the “Gettysburg Address.” Coleman categorically declared: “This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students.” Aside from the fact that “close” reading was not developed or promoted by Yale English professors Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren as a reading technique for historical documents, no history or English teacher before the advent of Common Core would have approached the study of a seminal historical document by withholding initial information about its historical context and clear language archaisms.

As high school history teacher Craig Thurtell states: “This approach [close reading] also permits the allocation of historical texts to English teachers, most of whom are untrained in the study of history, and leads to history standards [Common Core’s literacy standards for history] that neglect the distinctiveness of the discipline.” Thurtell goes on to say that the “study of history requires the use of specific concepts and cognitive skills that characterize the discipline—concepts like evidence and causation and skills like contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration. These concepts and skills are largely distinct from those employed in literary analysis. Both disciplines engage in close readings of texts, for example, but with different purposes. The object of the literary critic is the text, or more broadly, the genre; for the historian it is, however limited or defined, a wider narrative of human history, which textual analysis serves.”

Not only did the writers of Common Core’s English language arts standards profoundly misunderstand how reading in a history class differs from reading in a literature class, they basically misunderstood the causes of the educational problem they sought to remedy through Common Core’s standards. They assumed that many high school graduates needed remedial coursework in reading and writing as college freshmen because English teachers gave them too heavy a diet of literary works and that teachers in other subjects deliberately or unwittingly did not teach them how to read complex texts in these other subjects. This assumption doesn’t hold up.

High school teachers will readily acknowledge that many students have not been assigned complex textbooks because, generally speaking, they can’t read them and, in fact, don’t read much of anything with academic content. Consequently, they have not acquired the content knowledge and the vocabulary needed for reading complex history textbooks. And this is despite (not because of) the steady decline in vocabulary difficulty in secondary school textbooks over the past half century. Higher levels of writing are increasingly dependent on higher levels of reading. Students unwilling to read a lot do not advance very far as writers.

The accumulation of a large and usable discipline-specific vocabulary depends on graduated reading in a coherent sequence of courses (known as a curriculum) in that discipline. The accumulation of a general academic vocabulary, however, depends on assigning a lot of increasingly complex literary works with strong plots and characters to entice poor readers to make efforts to read them (like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). Otherwise, students will not acquire the general academic vocabulary needed for serious historical nonfiction, the texts that secondary history students should be reading.

Possible Approaches to Common Core’s Secondary ELA Standards

  1. Schools can establish reading classes separate from the English and other subject classes. Students who cannot or won’t read high school-level textbooks can be given further reading instruction in the secondary grades by teachers with strong academic backgrounds who have learned how to teach reading skills appropriate to the academic subjects students are taking. While not easy to do, it is doable.
  2. Schools can enable English and history teachers to provide professional development to each other in the same high school. The context and philosophical antecedents for our seminal political documents (e.g., Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) can be explained/taught to English teachers by their colleagues in the History Department, while an analysis of their language and other stylistic features can be explained/taught to history teachers by their colleagues in the English Department.

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

After Common Core: Achievement Gap Widens in U.S. as Lowest Performing Students Drop Further in Reading

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Dr. Susan Berry, Dr. Berry is a conservative writer and contributor to Breitbart.com, she has a doctorate in psychology. She writes about cultural, educational, and healthcare policy issues. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

“After Common Core: Achievement Gap Widens in U.S. as Lowest Performing Students Drop Further in Reading”pixabay.com

The scores of United States fourth graders dropped on an international measure of reading skills – with those of the lowest-performing students declining the most – following years of the implementation of Common Core.

According to results released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) this week, in 2016, the average score in the U.S. on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) dropped to 549 out of 1,000 from the average score of 556 in 2011. The results translate into the nation’s decline from fifth in international ranking in 2011 to 13th in 2016 out of 58 international education systems.

 “The good news from the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study is that basic literacy is at an all-time high worldwide and a majority of countries have seen rising reading achievement in the last decade,” writes Sarah Sparks at Education Week. “The bad news is that students in the United States are bucking the trend.”

“We seem to be declining as other education systems record larger gains on the assessment,” said Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner for the federal NCES, according to the Washington Post. “This is a trend we’ve seen on other international assessments in which the U.S. participates.” 

“[T]he PIRLS shows flattened achievement over time for the top-performing 20 percent of students taking the test, and declining scores for the lowest 20 percent of students, bringing the average score down,” writes Sparks. “While students at schools with poverty rates above 50 percent performed on average at least 20 scale points lower than wealthier schools, the schools with 10 percent to 25 percent poverty had higher average reading scores than the wealthiest schools.”

“Other education systems seem to be doing a better job of moving students through more levels of achievement to higher levels of achievement,” Carr said.

The results come five to seven years after most states adopted the Common Core standards – a progressive public-private partnership reform, the primary intent of which was to lower the achievement gap between upper and middle class students and those from the lower socio-economic levels.

Education Dive reports:

In the years since most states have adopted the Common Core standards, reading achievement has declined among America’s 4th-graders, both in terms of the average score as well as in comparison to their peers in other countries, according to the results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced today.

In response to the news about U.S. PIRLS scores, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – a supporter of school choice and charter schools – did not mention Common Core, but tweeted, “Our students can’t move ahead – in school or in life – if they’re falling behind in reading. We must do better for students, parents & educators. We must #RethinkSchool.”

Students in Singapore topped the rankings on the PIRLS, with Russia, Ireland, Finland, Hong Kong, Poland, Norway, and Latvia – one of the poorest nations in Europe – coming in ahead of the United States with statistical differences.

According to the Post:

The report adds to a worrisome body of evidence that academic achievement is stagnant or slipping among U.S. schoolchildren. Fourth-graders and eighth-graders continued to lag behind their counterparts in Asian countries in math and science, according to another international exam administered in 2015. That same year, high school seniors showed unchanged results in reading and slipping scores in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given every two years. Reading scores on that test for fourth-graders remained unchanged and dropped for eighth-graders.

As Breitbart News reported in April of 2016, only about 37 percent of U.S. 12th graders are prepared for math and reading at the college level, according to the 2015 NAEP – also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

In addition, results of the 2015 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program in International Student Assessment (PIS) found American students showing, at best, mediocre performance in math, science, and reading.

Despite the clear drop in performance in U.S. students on a variety of measures, schools in the country nevertheless appear fixated on “social and emotional learning” (SEL).

…Ze’ev Wurman, a former George W. Bush U.S. Education Department senior policy adviser, tells Breitbart News the tumble in U.S. scores on PIRLS is “not surprising”:

We have had warning signs for it since Common Core was adopted and harshly criticized by leading literacy researchers. Peggy Carr, the acting NCES Commissioner, correctly said that we have seen this trend on other international assessments. Yet even when the recent drop in reading on our own NAEP is mentioned, the fact that the 2015 NAEP drop in 8th grade was the largest ever is rarely brought up. The 2017 NAEP results are delayed to early spring 2018 due to technical issues, yet they don’t promise to get any better.

Wurman adds that while U.S. educational achievement has a history of not improving at a fast enough pace, further damage has been done by implementation of the Common Core standards.

“What we see since the Common Core took over is that our educational achievement is actually deteriorating rather than just being unable to keep up,” he explains. “Yet all Martin West of Harvard could think of as the cause was the recession and poverty, but nothing about the elephant in the room — the massive deterioration of educational standards and expectations under Common Core.”

The Common Core was a federally promoted education initiative introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RttT). 

The program was developed by three private organizations in Washington D.C.: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve Inc., a nonprofit education organization that says it is committed to college and career readiness. All three organizations were privately funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and none of these groups are accountable to parents, teachers, students, or taxpayers.

Though DeVos – who has supported organizations and individuals who are champions of the Common Core – has said, “There really isn’t any Common Core anymore” in the nation’s schools, Education Week reports, “at least 37 states” are still using the Common Core standards or its rebrands as of the end of 2016.

Education Dive notes Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago – one of the authors of the Core – says the standards are still in effect in 42 states…

…Asked by Breitbart News about the possible relationship between Common Core and the continued decline in U.S. students’ performance on PIRLS, Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at Cato Institute, says he is cautious about making any definitive statements based on this one test – which does not provide a “longitudinal breakdown of informational reading scores.”

“That said, it does not bode well for the Core that we saw overall reading scores fall between 2011 and 2016—basically, the Core era—and that on acquiring and using information—the major emphasis of the Core–we were beaten by 15 systems, more than outpaced us on overall reading,” he tells Breitbart News.

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based American Principles Project, observes the tendency by some experts to avoid naming Common Core as a major culprit in the continued decline in American education performance.

“It’s fascinating how many commentators ignore the elephant in the room,” she tells Breitbart News. “DeVos suggests school structure is the problem, others blame recession and poverty. No one admits the glaringly obvious fact that the downward spiral of academic performance coincides with the implementation of Common Core.”

“How much more evidence do we need that Common Core was a terrible idea from the beginning and should be scrapped?” Robbins adds.

Wurman agrees, referring to the narrative fed to states by Common Core supporters nearly a decade ago.

“One wonders for how long will the states – and Gates-funded educational researchers – keep the charade that Common Core standards are ‘rigorous’ and ‘demanding’ in view of the deteriorating reality hitting their faces,” he says. “At some point even all the Bill Gates billions thrown at propping up this mediocre and ill-conceived educational disaster should not justify harming the future of millions of children.”

 Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com