Archive | June, 2015

Common Core Theory and Student Heterogeneity

25 Jun

The theory behind the Common Core is based in the assumption that students learn best when they generate their own solutions.[1]  Although not yet trained yet to do so, students are expected to come to grips with original thinking and novel solutions in groups, and individually, with the teacher acting as guide and molder of these solutions.

Common Core advocates using buzz-phrases such as, “ramping up rigors,” along with “empower” and “fostering of grit.”  But, does rigor mean bigger?[2]  Chiseled within the framework of today’s academic and classroom issues, the following questions must be factored into the success of any corporate educational shift, including the Common Core.  Does Common Core take into consideration:

  • If American students are accused of egocentrism, narcissism, and laziness, we assume that all do not speak English proficiently?[3]
  • Can teachers and schools hold parents accountable—either by making certain they get their children to school promptly, or by making them behave and perform?[4]
  • How is ramping up rigors going to help with English proficiency?
  • What will an eventual national curriculum look like, as it aligns with Common Core?
  • In what ways is the classroom going to change to either take advantage of, of discipline students from their apathy and malaise, and their reliance on technology, and social media?[5]
  • What incentives will be there for students demonstrate profound proficiency and growth, and discover motivation and incentive, while they presently lack proficiency on a national level?[6]

There are so very many other questions the proponents of Common Core did not consider when rolling out the untested and pock-marked program.  Common Core does little-to-nothing to consider the cultural aspects of a society so thoroughly heterogeneous.  We are not Norway, or Japan.  Yet, Common Core is presented as a one-size-fits-all program.

The fact is that Common Core is mutually incompatible within itself.  There are many reasons for this incompatibility—not the least of which is an assumption that self-focused, pleasure-driven, immediate-gratification-oriented students will press beyond their very natures.  Can we even get students to keep their hands off their cell phones for 1 hour?

[1]. Leslie Crawford.  Accessed June 26, 2014.  http://www.greatschools.org/common-core-state-standards/7690-common-core-standards-questions-and-answers-for-parents.gs.

[2]. Dan Berrett.  Ramping up rigor.  February 2, 2011.  Accessed June 16, 2014.  http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/02/02/florida_college_boosts_learning_by_returning_to_core_liberal_arts_curriculum#sthash.Y85oIEIk.dpbs; http://assets.pearsonschool.com/asset_mgr/current/20124/MixBro_11056_CCSSPD.pdf.

[3]. Ernest J. Zarra, III.  Teacher-student relationships:  Crossing into the emotional, physical, and sexual realms.  2013.   (Lanham, Maryland:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. Claudio Sanchez, September 26, 2013, “College board ‘concerned’ about low SAT scores.”  NPR; http://www.npr.org/2013/09/26/226530184/college-board-concerned-about-low-sat-scores).

Common Core: Definition of College and Career Readiness?

24 Jun

College readiness implies adequacy in academic preparation.  High schools are graduating between 70-80% of their seniors with the intent that they will be ready for college and career.  However , Common Core calls into question whether these same students are really “able to succeed in entry-level credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.”[1]  Essentially, advocates of Common Core imply that those students graduating from American schools are not prepared for twenty-first century employment.

According to the federal government, many of these high school graduates have very few skills or academic preparation to make it in the workplace or find success at college.  The nation is told by the government that its students lack the prerequisites for a successful future.  In fact, not only are students coming through a system that is lacking, it is equally as inadequate, say those in government.  So, there is a problem, or two.  Holding back students who cannot read on grade level is considered taboo.  Passing students through, by manipulating grades, emotionalizing hardship cases, or some other academic gymnastic skews graduation numbers.  Under Common Core, it is highly unlikely that students which fall behind, or are unable to achieve passing scores will be kept back.  What, then has been solved?

The bureaucrats and Common Core proponents continue to remind us the development of Common Core is a tangible move to assure students of a brighter and more prosperous career, in the 21st century, and that they will possess the literacy skills needed to arrive at such an endpoint.  To this end, “Common Core’s mathematics and English language arts standards are described as resulting from ‘collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.’”[2]  If these same students are not passing under less rigorous standards, how then will they achieve under more rigorous standards developed supposedly by teachers?

Therefore, the nation is asked to trust what is said about Common Core, especially as the standards are billed as the definitions of “the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers.”[3]  The nation is also being asked to trust that students will graduate from high school ready for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) challenges in the areas where “most job forecasters predict to be the ‘hottest,’ or fastest-growing and best-compensated jobs in the next decade, for college graduates.”[4]  The Chronicle of Higher Education forecasts the percentage of increased worker demand for the following STEM jobs by the year 2020.[5]

This worker demand is a projection and it implies students will need to major in these particular areas in college.  Yet, is it possible students can major in these areas in community college, because that is where the vast majority of students will be enrolled–especially if President Obama has his way with “free” community college for all.  Since no one knows for certain what the future will hold, the projections also present the incentive that students may be enticed to migrate toward an academic discipline based on perceived job demand.  This is a very unrealistic goal.  Will everyone find a fit in a STEM job?  Does every American student desire employment in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics?  Furthermore, are all students expected to be proficient enough under any circumstance to fill these Common Core expectations?  If graduation is not a measure of success, then what are the measures with the untested, research-lacking Common Core?

How will the nation convince millions of students to shift interests or alter their education apathy, in order to possess the willpower to achieve in a system requiring greater rigor?  Have we stopped to consider when foreign nations’ economies slow and the jobs projected today become few, or even non-existent tomorrow, or in two years?  If Americans assume the Common Core goals are realistic, can they also assume the math and language arts of Common Core are equally as unrealistic and ill-prepare students actually to meet the jobs forecast for their futures?

[1]. R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky.  “How common core math fails to prepare high school students for STEM (no. 103).  September 2013.  Pioneer Institute, p. 3.  Accessed August 13, 2014.  http://pioneerinstitute.org/download/lowering-the-bar-how-common-core-math-fails-to-prepare-high-school-students-for-stem/.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Susan Ricker.  “Top STEM Jobs: 8 Science And Tech Careers In High Demand.”  November 14, 2012.  Career Builder.  Accessed July 17, 2014.  http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/11/14/stem-jobs-science-tech-careers/.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Ibid.

Common Core: Federal Government to the Rescue?

23 Jun

Throughout American history, the American federal government has created, through elected officials and political power, many unnecessary controversies and crises.  Politicians have lobbied for change, while later offering solutions to the problems they had helped to create.  Whether World War II, Vietnam, The War on Poverty, ESEA, NCLB, or Common Core, the government did not seem to learn from unintended consequences.  So, as the old adage goes, the federal government comes to the rescue of many issues it helps to create.  Some policy experts call this a bailout of failed policies.

Many Americans today have this sense about them that the comprehensive education paradigm, known as Common Core, is another of these packaged, or manufactured crises, replete with federal governmental solutions.  In fact, critics contend that Common Core aims primarily at global competition and corporate economic standing, and not on people, their access to excellence and passion in learning, and the overall wholeness of American students.  The issue, then, centers on a political perspective of what is deemed as America’s national common good.

Those of the Baby Boom Generation remember Saul Alinsky’s primer, Rules for Radicals,[1] as it was required reading in many colleges and universities in the early 1970s.  Many of us recall the heated debate over the issues of the day and Alinsky’s provocative, yet radical perspectives .  His views affected sociology, political science, social and race relations, and caused a stir on college campuses.[2]

Creating crises and then using these crises for political and social advantage in America is today a hallmark of Alinsky and leftist American politics.  For example, Alinsky’s work was used to create a stir among the progressive left during the latter-third of the previous century, affecting the mindsets of historical events.  As a follower of Alinsky,  President Obama’s administration has mirrored Alinsky’s tactics to apply federal answers to federally created issues, and justify the expansion of federal government, as well as to emphasize social justice.[3]  Who can forget those momentous words by former Obama Administration Chief of Staff, and current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, when he declared, “Don’t let a crisis go to waste.”[4]  However, not all agree that the federal government is as nefarious and deceptive as Obama detractors others seem to think.[5]  Often, politics seems larger-than-life itself–particularly when certain media outlets are involved in reporting certain events.

Would anyone be surprised to discover that politics is involved in American education?   The answer would probably be met with laughter and a resounding, “No.”  However, mention children in education, in the same breath, and immediately laughter gives way to a more serious demeanor.  No Child Left Behind, under President Bush 43, had been labeled by political progressives and some conservatives an abject failure and had produced a generation of test-takers, inadequate to meet the employment climate and job opportunities of the twenty-first century.[6]  Was this a manufactured crisis or an unintended consequence?

When the federal government manufactures a crisis, informs Americans that the sky is falling, and then offers solutions to fix the problem, the result is that the government appears as the hero.  My father said repeatedly, “if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Was NCLB really broken, and was it a complete failure?  In order to appear as such, government defined “failure,” and drew its own conclusion.  The Obama Administration’s Department of Education declared NCLB dead and completely inadequate for the twenty-first century.  Enter Race To The Top and Common Core . . .

[1]. Saul D. Alinsky.  Rules for Radicals.  (New York City, New York:  Random House, 1989, 1971).

[2]. Warren Mass.  “Obama Honors Radical labor Leader Cesar Chavez.”  New American.  October 2, 2012.  Accessed September 19, 2014.  http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/item/13076-obama-honors-radical-labor-leader-cesar-chavez.

[3]. Anne-Marie Murrell.  “Proof that Obama is likened to radical Alinsky.  Patriot Update.  April 3, 2012.  Accessed September 19, 2013.  http://patriotupdate.com/articles/proof-that-obama-is-linked-to-radical-alinsky/.  Cf. James Rosen.  “Gingrich attacks on Obama resurrect Saul Alinsky.”  January 25, 2012.  Accessed September 4, 2014.  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/25/gingrich-attacks-on-obama-resurrect-saul-alinsky/.

[4]. Rahm Emanuel.  “Shaping the New Agenda:  Opportunities of Crisis.”  CEO Council.  The Wall Street Journal.  November 2008.  Accessed August 23, 2014.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mzcbXi1Tkk .

[5]. Melinda Henneberger.  “Saul Alinsky would be so disappointed:  Obama breaks ‘Rules for Radicals.’”  The Washington Post.  January 25, 2012.  Accessed September 19, 2014.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/post/saul-alinsky-would-so-disappointed-sotu-breaks-rules-for-radicals/2012/01/24/gIQAt1cVPQ_blog.html .

[6]. Sally Holland.  “Duncan:  ‘No Child Left Behind’ creates failure for U. S. schools.”  March 9, 2011.  Accessed September 19, 2014.  http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/09/education.congress/.

Common Core Pushing Teachers Out

22 Jun

             Teachers are leaving education in record numbers, nationally.  Teacher credential programs at universities and colleges are finding it difficult to recruit students to a profession once highly respected, and once highly viewed as a “cash cow.”  Many of the nation’s school districts are in crisis mode–particularly secondary schools–with retirement funds raided, requirements to live in inner cities on lower salaries, and with students being promoted by political policy and expectation, and not academic achievement.  Politics has a stranglehold on America’s schools, and Common Core is the noose.

            The reality for teachers faced with implementing Common Core is that those which are close to retirement are leaving the profession in droves.[1]  The advent of the Common Core is pushing good, veteran teachers out of the profession earlier than necessary.  “Superintendents say new statewide learning benchmarks known as Common Core State Standards may be causing some teachers who were considering retirement to do so sooner.”[2]  It is also causing some which would have aspired toward education as a career to have second thoughts about their career choice, and relinquish these aspirations.

            Unexpectedly, the Common Core is also causing teachers with a few years into the system, some tenured and some not tenured, to consider careers outside education.  Furthermore, numbers of applicants to teacher education programs in some states are declining, due in large part to the implementation of Common Core.  The reality is “not only are veteran teachers leaving but so are a number of those with less than five years in the classroom, according to both educators and national researchers.  At the same time, fewer aspiring teachers are entering preparatory programs . . .”[3]

            Susan Headden, senior associate for public policy engagement at Carnegie Foundation, predicts what she envisions for American schools.  Once the veterans and disenchanted leave education for good, the Common Core will result in serious consequences.  She writes, “the sheer number of novices in public school teaching has serious financial, structural and educational consequences for public education—straining budgets, disrupting school cultures, and most significantly, depressing student achievement.”[4]

[1]. Susan Headden.  “Beginners in the classroom:  What the changing demographics of teaching mean for schools, students, and society.”  2014.  Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, p. 3.  Accessed August 8, 2014. http://www.thetlf.org/News/new_teachers_carnegie_report.pdf.

[2]. Lauren Foreman.  “Districts need more teachers.”  June 8, 2014.   The Bakersfield Californian, pp. B1, B4.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Headden.  “Beginners in the classroom . . .” 2014.  Carnegie Foundation , p. 3. 

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