Archive | May, 2015

Common Core Common Sense

1 May

Common Core Common Sense

Ernie Zarra, Ph.D.

There is much misinformation about Common Core.  Teachers’ unions are removing support of Common Core.  The Democratic Party in Washington State voted its opposition to CC.  Chicago schools refuse to assess all students under CC this year.  California is one of the few states that do not allow its teachers and principals to be accountable or evaluated, based on students’ CC scores, making California’s support of CC quite questionable.  This could change, since there are now lawsuits lined up in California courts challenging the omission of teacher evaluations to student performance.

California districts are suing to recover costs associated with CC.  If successful, districts all over the state must be reimbursed nearly $1 billion dollars.  The federal government requires new technology to accommodate CC assessments.  Under the California State Constitution, the state must pay for “new responsibilities and programs, or expanded levels of services that the state legislature requires local governments and school districts to provide.”  CC is not financially sustainable.

Whose operating systems and software will be running all of the computers and assessments, and who stands to make billions on computer upgrades?

All over the nation, opt-out groups are exercising their rights to remove their children from consortia assessments.  Does the KHSD inform parents of this?   Leaders are told to use different terminology and avoid the term Common Core.  Such is the case with California.  The SBAC assessment is now the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).

What The Bakersfield Californian and Kern High School District fail to inform us is that states are opting out of the Common Core assessments in droves.  For example, the federally funded PARCC had 26 original member states, but has since suffered major defections.  Fewer than a dozen states are now committed to the PARCC exam this year.  Mississippi pulled out completely.  In Seattle, several high schools found their students were no-shows on the days of the assessment administration.  With such actions, the federal government is threatening to withhold funds from states that drop below 95% participation rate.  In other words, Secretary Duncan and President Obama are angry.  But remember, Common Core is not billed as a federal program.

California teachers are told ramping up rigors with students, reading barely above 6th grade levels, is positive.  This is insensible.  Students must first be proficient in English and basics in content areas before tackling greater taxonomical levels.  As a result, not all teachers and administrators are behind CC.  However, there is great risk if a teacher, principal, or district level administrator speaks out about CC.  Being blacklisted as unsupportive is not what anyone wants penciled onto the psyches of those with whom one later interviews for higher-tiered positions.

CC at the secondary level reduces teachers to moderators.  CC was to leave instruction up to teachers.  The definition of a “teacher” has changed under CC.  Curriculum was billed as a local decision, yet lesson plan formats and templates are uploaded with the expectations that teachers of CC will use them.  Textbooks are more standardized than under NCLB, and this will eventually result in nationalized curriculum, if left unchecked.  This is not mere speculation.  The evidence is in the statements of those associated with CC.

The reason for this change in America education is that our 15-year-olds tested behind some Asian and European nations on an international math and science assessment, the PISA.  The government rhetoric is that bureaucrats and corporations want workers to compete globally.

Americans are told that Common Core is not a federal program.  Many scholars and politicians disagree.  Following Race to the Top funds and NCLB waivers helps to discover the truth.  Scholars argue that Common Core “dumbs-down” both elementary and secondary education.  Drs. James Milgram, Sandra Stotsky, and Yong Zhao are warning Americans about Common Core.  They also see similar issues with the possible reauthorization of NCLB.  Milgram and Stotsky were scholars on the very committee that developed the Common Core standards for math and English-language arts, and did not sign off on them because they are not adequate.

Secretary Arne Duncan stated America must apologize to her people for not educating students for the 21st century.  Does the KHSD agree?  Accepting Common Core can lead to no other conclusion.  At a time when over 80% of students graduate high school, how insulting to all of us to hear that current bureaucrats label our current public education system as inadequate.

Not all students will be ready for college and career, out of high school.  Those, which are ready for college, will find community college their best option.  This is why President Obama is pressing the federal program of “free” community college.

There is an old adage in education:  “Image is everything.”  The Common Core embodies this.  We no longer leave any child behind.  Eventually, we will leave a dumbed-down generation behind.  That is, if we can get them to put down their smart phones.

Dr. Ernie Zarra, Ph.D., is a longtime Bakersfield educator and author of the soon-to-be-released-book:  The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Impact of Common Core on American Education.  (Summer 2015, Rowman & Littlefield), and recently released Teacher-Student Relationships: Crossing into the Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Realms (2013).

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