Posts Tagged ‘Common Core’

The passing scene: November 1, 2014

November 1, 2014

Common Core and the End of History by Alan Singer for Huffington Post.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Is the purpose of public education to educate citizens or to train employees?   Alan Singer described how the New York State Board of Regents voted to allow high school students to skip final examinations in either American history or global history and substitute an exam or proficiency test in some unspecified vocational-technical subject.  He quoted a teacher on how a school dropped social studies so students would have more time to cram for Common Core standardized math and reading assessments.

Living wages, rarity in U.S. fast-food workers, served up in Denmark by Liz Alderman and Steven Greenhouse for the New York Times.

A Burger King employee in Denmark is paid the equivalent of $20 an hour, about two and a half times his U.S. counterpart.  He gets his work schedule four weeks in advance, and cannot be sent home without pay just because it is a slow business day.  And he enjoys the benefit of Denmark’s universal health care plan.  What’s the secret?  A powerful labor union, which negotiates wages and working conditions on an industry-wide basis.  And employers who are satisfied with a smaller profit as the price of not having extreme poverty.

Americans are working so hard it’s actually killing people by Esther Kaplan for The Nation.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Under-staffing is dangerous, but it is on the rise as a means of cutting costs and increasing short-term profit.  Workers such as nurses, who are tasked with preserving life, are stretched too thin to be able to do their jobs well.  Workers in dangerous occupations, such as coal mining, neglect safety precautions in order to get the job done on time.  This is a major factor in industrial accidents.  And workers who are pushed to their physical limits are worn down over the years.

Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked by what she learns by Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post.

An experienced high school teacher spent two days shadowing high school students, one a 10th grader and one a 12th grader, and did everything the students did.  She learned how exhausting it is to spend most of the day sitting still and passively listening, and took away lessons she will use in her teaching.  I think the shadowing exercise should be required in college courses in education.

As infrastructure crumbles, trillions of gallons of water lost by David Schaper of National Public Radio.

Trillions in global cash await call to fix crumbling U.S. by Mark Niquette for Bloomberg News.

Get ready for deja vu in the credit markets by Ben Eisen for Market Watch.

With interest rates being held down by the Federal Reserve System, this would be a great time to issue bonds to perform needed repairs and reconstruction of water and sewerage systems, roads and bridges and other public works.  But now the Fed has decided to end its “qualitative easing,” which held down interest rates, so that window of opportunity is going away.

The Caliph fit to join OPEC by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar speculated on whose interests are served by the fact that ISIS is allowed to sell oil on world markets.

The War Nerd: Crunching Numbers of Kobane by Gary Brecher for Pando Daily.

Gary Brecher discussed the public relations war against ISIS and the appeal of terrorism and war to sexually-frustrated young men.

The problems with the Common Core

February 4, 2014

waynehighstakesI never thought President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program was a good-faith effort to improve the public schools.  It seemed to me that its real purpose was to brand public schools as failures, in order to privatize public education in this country.  This in turn seemed to me to be part of a broader movement to transform all public U.S. institutions into for-profit businesses.

It seems to me that the Common Core State Standards movement is an updated version of the same thing.   The core of the Common Core is the use of high-stakes testing to brand students and school systems as failures.   I am not one of those who opposes Common Core out of generalized hostility toward public education or the Obama administration.  The truth, as I see it, is that the Common Core undermines public education.

Stan Karp, of Rethinking Schools magazine, pointed out that the Common Core standards were drafted behind closed doors by academics and assessment “experts” without input from classroom teachers.   Among the 25 people in the work groups that drafted the standards, 15 were associated with for-profit testing companies, and none – zero – were public school teachers.  So it is not surprising that the Common Core is based on testing.

Common Core sets higher standards without providing resources to meet these higher standards.  Instead, public education is being de-funded, teachers are being laid off, schools are being closed and teachers’ unions are under attack.  The number of children in poverty is increasing.  “College-ready” high school graduates find higher education out of reach without taking on debt that leaves them in jeopardy of indentured servitude for the rest of their lives.

Common Core does not cause these larger problems, but neither does it address them.  Instead Common Core provides an excuse to scapegoat students and teachers for the failures of the larger society.

If I wanted to improve the public school system, I would convene a commission consisting mainly of experienced public school teachers who had won state “teacher of the year” awards, and limited to those who attended American public schools themselves and whose children are in public schools.  They would, of course, be free to draw on the expertise of anyone they chose, including employers, testing services, college professors or anyone else.

I would recommend they look at high-performing school systems such as the Massachusetts public schools, and judge whether their best practices could be adopted nationwide.  I would test any educational “reforms” in pilot studies.  The last thing I would do is commit the nation’s schools to a radical transformation based on untested theories.


Click on The Problems with the Common Core for the full text of an excellent presentation by Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools magazine.  He speaks from 30 years experience teaching English and journalism in the New Jersey public school system.  Hat tip for this link to Steve Badrich and his friend Bill.