School Standards’ Debut Is Rocky, and Critics Pounce

The Common Core, a rigorous education initiative that has been ardently supported by the Obama administration, is opposed by some as an edict and by others as too hard.

Comments: 216

  1. Is there anyone in office these days who'd rather see schools used for education first, rather than evaluation? Would you rather see your kids prepared for life and careers, or just weeded out for not being good automatically conforming robot material as they do in China and Japan?

  2. One of my former bosses was from Japan, less of a robot and repeater of stereotypes (sic) than most Americans. He told me once that he found it surprising that U.S. college graduates (he did his PhD at Cornell) had trouble with percentages, something any high school graduate in Japan would be expected to know.

    The point is that our kids and adults are not well-prepared for life, career, or being good/discerning citizens. Everyone (well, maybe not everyone) wants our kids to be better educated; the evaluations and standards are trying to push that. As for "robot material", these standards are supposedly promoting a curriculum for thinking and analyzing - whether they do that, I don't know, but that is the stated intent.

  3. Those "robot material" in Asia are kicking our butts. Even our much vaunted high tech industry is filled with those "robot material" imported from these countries.

  4. As a parent of an NYC public middle school child I support the Common Core. Raise the bar. And while there are obviously many things that need to be worked out over the next couple of years we should stay the course. I think it's the right way forward.

  5. Well, if Common Core is the standard for what students are supposed to know, and if it is supported by the majority of the states, then states should be sure that instruction is conducive to meeting the standards. This talk about a mandate is nonsense as is the notion that the test is too hard. As usual, people at the extremes are not adding anything to the discussion.

  6. I'm a NYC high school teacher and the repercussions from this will be disastrous. With the new teacher evaluation model in NYC, which includes 30 percent of my yearly rating based on test scores, how can I possibly be rated "effective" when my students are taking a test that they haven't seen. (High schools in NY State haven't given them yet as all current high school students are grandfathered in to Regents exams.)

    Talk about college ready? My freshman aren't even high school ready. They get promoted from lower grades regardless as part of a "moving along " process.

    For the most part, the learning portion of the day ends when students leave when the bell rings. It's not like they are going home and focusing on schoolwork. It's chill time.

    Testing for each student is basically a snapshot of a moment in a single day of a student. It's not a full measure but students failing gets the headlines and allows politicians to bash teachers and find a political platform.

    Sigh

  7. So is the focus on educating kids or on your teacher evaluation?

  8. Obviously, the results of the new tests should be geared towards demonstrating where things stand, what needs to be done, and identifying kids who need help (granted, where does that help come from in time and money and labor?) rather than as a punitive device for teachers or students. Unfortunately, as you know, it is also obvious that expectations for teachers and students, regarding suddenly lower scores, will not be adjusted across the board as they should.

    I also sympathize that the higher the grade, the more of a problem it is to teach the socially promoted (there is only so much a teacher can do) and there are a higher percentage of these in some schools than in others; I doubt teacher evaluations/expectations account for this fairly.

    We do need to raise standards but that needs to be accompanied by many other things that aren't happening.

  9. @Nerddowell
    you ask: "how can I possibly be rated "effective" when my students are taking a test that they haven't seen"
    Really??? You expect your students to be able to pass only the tests that HAVE seen? The purpose of the test is to ascertain the level of knowledge of those being tested. To do that effectively, students are not supposed to have seen the test before taking it. Otherwise, all you are testing for is their ability to prepare for the test they are familiar with.

  10. The article mentions that, "The standards, which were written by a panel of experts convened by governors and state superintendents,..." However, this fails to make the point that the Common Core State Standards was an idea developed by the governors and only after it was adopted, did the U.S. Department of Education get involved. This is not an edict from Washington DC. With changes in governors in many states since the first adoption of the Common Core, there has been growing opposition as it has become politically expedient in many states to oppose them.

  11. There's nothing wrong with high standards. There is something wrong with the tests. Last spring I spent two days scoring 7th grade ELA tests for the state of New York. What the testing gurus deemed a high scoring answer was often, upon scrutiny, a very poor answer. We graders often objected to the criteria for good answers. We also objected to the rather boring and irrelevant non fiction essays the students had to read and process and write about. And we felt sorry for the 12 and 13 year olds who lost three days of instruction time to write redundant, formulaic essays.

  12. Yes, the reading material is boring at best and the answers choices often ambiguous. Practicing for these tests is an abnormal task that is unrelated to normal learning.

  13. Great comment, and I'd like to add that often the most intelligent students see the most ambiguity in poorly written questions and sloppily written non-fiction. If every child read more superb non-fiction, though, like gripping stories written by great journalists, it would improve their thinking and their learning.

  14. The answers are often ambiguous at first glance, but become clear after some logical analysis.

  15. As long as schools are defined as "failing", they will. The first step to improvement in any endeavor is to regard underachievement positively - you can't get better until you know where you're not succeeding. Rather than punishing schools for poor student performance, we need to encourage them to admit their shortcomings. Instead, we stigmatize them to the point of encouraging them to HIDE the problems.

    And around and around we go...

  16. Given the mobility of Americans, it has always seemed logical to me that children, no matter where they live or what their local school district requires, should have a basic core education that can travel with them. I've always been baffled by the idea that children, say in Idaho, should have a different curriculum from children in LA or Chicago. This does not address the issue of what should constitute a Core Curriculum.

  17. They don't even need to cross state lines or even county lines to get a different set of education standards, just try and cross district lines! In fact, schools in the same district even teach different material, and even different teachers in the same grade in the same school teach different material!

  18. But then what's the point of winning a state or local election if you can't pack the board of education with your zealous cronies and start brainwashing the kiddies? Common Core's no fun!

  19. As I recall, hundreds of years ago in the Spanish-speaking colonial world, diktats from Spain laid out exactly what was to be taught in each subject, with daily schedules. You could attend school in Barcelona, and -- assuming your shipboard tutor followed the schedule -- land in Buenos Aires ready to take your place in a class where you had covered the exact same material as your classmates.

    Assuming you were male.

  20. What I've seen of the common core is common sense. If two thirds are failing, it's the scoring that skewed, not the test. If the cost of testing is exorbitant and the test is serving political and corporate testing interests rather than educational objectives, then adjustment or reconsideration is in order. But neither Tea Party paranoia nor test phobia is warranted. It's reasonable to have a measure of academic ability and progress with national scope.

  21. I think that the comment, by Diane Ravitch, shows the problem that under lies testing. The idea that Junior will be OK with just a basic three "R" education ,in today's market, shows how under educated even the educated are. Junior Colleges were around even in my youth of 50 years ago. They had to fill in the blanks left by school systems that passed students along to keep Mom and Pop happy. We got away with it then as we had factory jobs for kids that just made it through. That will not work in today's world. Playing catchup, at Remedial Schools, extends the time and costs a student will spend. Three years will go to five. Is that what we want for our kids?

  22. The "factory job" of the past is mostly gone, but not the need for skilled work. Please check out the Mike Rowe Works website (http://www.mikeroweworks.com) for a perspective that reflects the world of work as it really exists. Kudoes to Rowe for taking an interest in this critical issue.

  23. Arthur, Diane Ravitch is hardly an advocate of dumb down teaching, although given the manner in which the end of this article was written, I can see how you might get that impression. (Why is it that journalist can get away with misleading, and therefore poor, writing?) She is one of the foremost historian of American education, and if anything, something of a traditionalist, with an emphasis upon classics. The statement that not all students are going to want, or need, to go to a four year college seems quite reasonable. I know of no country where all students go to college.

  24. Ravitch never suggested limited education to only the three "R"s. She merely suggested that perhaps the standards should be set at a different level than where some people are setting them. Perhaps the level that she wants is fine; we can't really evaluate that, since she did not give a specific suggestion in this article, other than saying that "a lot of kids" (again not giving specific numbers) perhaps don't need college.

  25. I'm looking forward to teaching the common core standards. The CC requires must more critical thinking and analysis than the standards I've been teaching the the last 5 years. To say that test scores will go down is like comparing apples and oranges. In the past, we have been testing our students solely on what they know. The common core tests will hopefully be able to assess skills (i.e. critical thinking, writing, problem solving) as well as content. Employers are more interested in hiring people for their skills, not necessarily how smart they are. For example, many people go into careers unrelated to what they studied in college. The reason they can do this is because they have valuable skills.

  26. Gee if you have low capabilities then you will have low skills. Now you can have decent capability and just not use it or use it in a way that is not market oriented. Sort of like all the folks with advanced degrees in subjects that pay little to nothing.

  27. I just love the youtube video where the teacher tries to explain how 3x4=11 is not necessarily wrong. You can't make this stuff up. Somehow we got to the moon and back and no other nation on earth has not to mention the technology revolution and on and on with the education system we had for those kids in the 1940's and 50's and 60's but the progressive liberals today want to control whats taught in every school. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCfg1gzQ-UI&feature=player_embedded

  28. Have you read the standards?

    Did you read the article and do you understand these standards were created not by the fed'al guvmint but by states, and are not being imposed by the fed'al guvmint?

    And being the true contradictory nationalist, on the one hand, you are complaining about how things are (example you give), but on the other, that things shouldn't change because we got to the moon 44 years ago.

    It appears to me that you are one of those who could have benefited from being taught to think more analytically.

  29. Consider the possibility that the statement -- critical thinking and analysis rather than memorization and formulas -- is nonsense when translated into a test for third grade students for either reading, writing, or math. Please examine the actual test materials before supporting the "higher" standards. tks, Russ

  30. I looked at the sample English and math tests given to NYC students this year, and they don't look any more difficult than other standardized national tests like Stanford Achievement or Iowa Basic Skills.

  31. I read some of the standards. I urge you all to do so. All I remember was that it was incomprehensible committee-speak. It proved to me that monkeys can type.

  32. The CCS is one of the most logically constructed frameworks for learning out there. Each subject is described, on a K-12 contiuum which is focused on the major strands of learning within each subject. The precise skills, knowledge and concepts which students need to be introduced to are detailed with clarity. Each of these are the learning expectations that teachers must turn into their daily teaching objectives; i.e., I need to teach a type of reading comprehension strategy, or a skill related to geometry proofs.

    State assessments, if they are going to work, need to be aligned to the exact learning expectations pinpointed at each grade level. This bears on teacher evaluations heavily. If, as is the case in Kentucky, students are by and large performing less well on standardized tests following the introduction of a new curriculum, then it means they are being taught to a higher standard they are not prepared for. It will take time, and the effort will be expended in the classroom, by teachers who understand how to deliver on curricular expectations.

    Teacher evaluations can not be tied to assessment results in the midst of a curricular transition.

  33. If you can't understand the Common Core, maybe it's because you are the product of the previously failed education system.

  34. Really? This standard seems clear to me:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

    If I apply it to your comment, I would say your evidence is insufficient, leading me to infer that your reasoning is also flawed.

  35. What children are actually learning is more hidden by state tests than revealed. It's going to upset everyone when that information is pulled out from the shadows. Objections will be couched in a myriad ways, but there's got to be some response that does focus on distributing blame, but on getting on with the solution. The solution is that everyone must require more from our children. It will be hard work (but not impossible) for us and for our children, but nothing good ever came without hard work.

  36. I think I understand where Diane Ravitch is coming from to some extent, but as a teacher, I see it as my job to encourage all of my students to pursue college. I think it's important to point out that there are other ways besides going to college, but those routes to success are disappearing in the 21st century. Today, the route to vocational careers often requires some post-high school education. I teach middle school and I encourage all of my students to pursue college. Why? Doesn't every parent hope that his/her son or daughter will go to college?

  37. You're from a wealthy community that's not typical.

  38. Though this article fails to include a link, it's actually possible to read the Standards themselves: http://www.corestandards.org/

    While I strongly support the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, I agree with Randi Weingarten that New York State has rushed into designing its own tests. It would be helpful for the NYTimes to investigate who designed the NY assessments. Were they field-tested? How do they compare to the sample tests released by PARCC and Smarter Balanced? Why was it necessary to put kids through this when teachers have had very little time and very little support from the state in adjusting to the changes?

  39. I was also curious about the assessment when I first read about the NY scores dropping so drastically. I did some googling and wasn't surprised to discover that the assessments were designed by Pearson.

  40. I am wondering if the exams were field-tested as well. Before WA state instituted new exams (called the WASL) over a decade ago, they administered the tests for at least 5 years as a "pilot" before using the scores as a high school graduation requirement. Throughout the piloting period, teachers, students and parents became familiar with the test expectations before it went "live." It seems like NY did not allow enough time to "pilot" the exam.

    On a side note, WA state spent untold millions (there is no official tally of the costs) developing their WASL tests, training teachers on it, and grading the exams, before eventually throwing out the test altogether. Like the Common Core, WASL required more critical thinking and writing skills. However, the pass rates were low and, because there was so much writing on the test requiring human grading, there was a lot of controversy about the inconsistencies of the grading process. In the end, parents and teachers did not want a test with so much controversy to determine high school graduation.

    What a waste of time, energy and money!

  41. THANK you for the link Sir/Maam! Just give me the real info and i can make an informed decision. My wife and I of 40 years have custody of our 15 yr old grandson and always have. God blessed him with the DNA brains that run in our family so he made it into the newest and 1st fair scores only---not who ya know---magnet in TN.
    I think the Creator has placed him at a time where DUKE has already diagnosed in the top 2% of 80,000 tested on the ACT in the 7th grade to BREAK THE YOKE of poverty we live in?! Problem is that we fall in our income to the 21% part of the lower quin tile and we have sacrificed get him in theater, baseball, karate, and ,any other enrichment programs early which indeed worked, but at the magnet he attends the average income of a child there is $80-$90,000 a yr and he has no friends because he can't spend $100 Friday night and another $100 Saturday night. KIND person Pray for Caleb or hope for him and thanks again for the link! I obtained a MPA degree in 2009 and then my L-1 thru L-6 blew out and put me in a wheelchair ending my income chances. I am blessed that I am not paralyzed per say in that I can use a walker to get to the bathroom and car but I was a 3,87GPA and now its useless as am I and I can't stand it much longer. Good day!!!!

  42. President George W. Bush once famously asked, "Is our children learning?" The sad truth is that they are not. In a global economy, if our children are not educated to a level relative to other industrialized countries, our children will lose out. The jobs will go elsewhere. Education will determine the real global winners and losers. We can not sit back, happy, fat and dumb. When 40% of our children need remediation, that indicates a very severe problem. This is true whether the child attends college or not.

    Regarding teachers, there can certainly be a grace period of a few years before test scores are part of their evaluation, or the scores can be weighed differently. Teachers must be evaluated in some reasonable manner. One may argue that test scores are not an accurate reflection. That may or may not be true. But all of us working in the "at will" marketplace are evaluated, too. We can be fired at any point for anything. I have little sympathy for teachers. There are few cradle to grave careers anymore.

  43. Teaching is not, nor has it been in my 25-year experience, a cradle-to-grave career. Teachers are protected from being fired arbitrarily; a teacher's rights are to a fair dismissal, not a lifelong gig. It saddens me that you have little sympathy for educators; we need supporters and collaborators, not critics.

  44. "There are few cradle to grave careers anymore." I'd argue that there are also fewer people - like my mother and sister, both teachers - who are willing to dedicate their lives to their profession.

    Speak to any teacher I know and their greatest concern is not their pension or their pay check. It's the growing lack of respect for their profession while they struggle with ever-diminishing resources. At the same time that master teachers are being pushed out of their jobs, Teach for America participants are replacing them. They come to the job with 5 weeks of training and most move on within 4 years. Still, we blame the teachers.

  45. "a group of parents and teachers argue that the standards — are simply too difficult."

    So let's pat the children on the back, give them a trophy and tell them how "special" they are.

    We do our kids no favors by mollycoddling them.

  46. This is not a case of coddling students. The DOE rolled out these new tests and standards without teaching the skills first. There was no curriculum that would have prepared students for these new tests, apart from the test prep that individual schools undertook to prepare their students (with some schools doing more test prep than others).

  47. Gloria - It is absurd to think that schools will teach to new standards if student aren't tested to the new standrds.

    If anything, the new core is too easy. I'd prefer that fewer kids actually earn a high school diploma than to continue with the same watered-down expectations that makes it ppossible to graduate just by showing up.

  48. This is so pathetic. Anytime something gets a little hard or rigorous, many in this country run for the hills. God forbid we have to put a little extra effort into anything. As an educator I support more rigorous standards. Too many of our schools are laden with mediocrity.
    The fact is there are students who achieved high scores on the new assessments. There are plenty of kids of all races and socio-economic levels who achieved high 3s and 4s. Why? Because they have a developed sense of academic discipline. All these folks whining about the tests being too hard are just looking for excuses. It is a favorite pastime of many in this country. (The exams were not too difficult. I know because I saw them. They are too long though and the state should consider shortening them.) Meanwhile children in countries like India and China outpace our students in just about every skill out there.
    Are we going to contine the whinefest and shortchange our children? Or are we going to prepare them for the future?

  49. The Common Core are not designed to prepare students to be college and career ready; they are calibrated to prepare students for college. Their emphasis is strictly on the kind of abstract thinking that colleges demand.

    The problem, of course, is that many students are much more comfortable with processing information in concrete, rather than abstract terms. No matter how much educators have parroted the belief that we have to teach kids through their dominant learning style, this is one distinction we have tended to ignore. This prejudice against concrete learning styles is based on the mistaken belief that every child needs to get a college degree because those with degrees earn twice as much over their lifetimes. The additional salary paid to college grads has always been because of their relative scarcity in the population, generally around 30%. If we could wave a magic wand and make every student a college graduate, the bonus would disappear, and employers would have to find a different means of screening applicants.

    As Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, says on the Mike Rowe Works website, "Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma." The Common Core are great, as long as we recognize the students for whom they work, and those for whom they do not.

  50. You mention "educators" but all the teachers I know - including my mother, sister and brother-in-law - all agree with you. For many, many years, Mom - whose teaching career began nearly 60 years ago - has been saying for decades that not all kids are going to go to college. My sister - a teacher for almost 25 years - supports her older son's decision to take a break from college. She sees no reason for him to continue to rack up university loan debt when he's not sure what he wants to do. In fact, at this time, he's making more money than his sister who just graduated from Cal Berkeley with two degrees.

  51. Not all kids should go to college. Increasing rigor to a college-preparedness level is a formula for school and, more importantly, student failure. We've gone from making every student feel (almost too) good about themselves to making a whole lot of students struggle to master concepts and processes that are irrelevant to their futures. There is no blanket approach, and I never thought (as a public school teacher) I'd ever say this, but bring back leveling and tracking. We say we want students to access and develop their talents, but then we are bound to a false educational cencept that all kids' talents are in academic pursuits. I will teach this curriculum, but I won't be surprised if it fails entire groups of students except for the high-flyers.

  52. Dumbing down the curriculum is never a good idea, especially given the unfair implications for people like me who were considered "high-flyers," in school. I agree that not all kids should go to college. However, that doesn't mean those kids who absolutely should go to college should get short-changed. The ideals of public education policy, as espoused today by those on the left AND right, dwell too much on the bottom reaches of the educational scale, not the top. This is counter-intuitive to our future success as a nation.

  53. Dumbing down the tests so that everyone passes is not the answer to anything. For those that cannot make it thru the standard way, there always the GED.

  54. thank you.... that needs to be said... and heard...

  55. There are positives in the Common Core but unfortunately this is one in a long series of reform efforts that take a limited approaches. While the emphasis on critical thinking is certainly positive, the casting of "rote" learning in a negative light is a limited perspective. Students need a strong command over basic information like multiplication tables and geography and a great deal more. Strong knowledge base combined with critical thinking and research capability is much to be desired. Also Common Core has largely jettisoned phonics in favor of whole language. Both are of great value to students. We need synthesis rather than reduction.

    The tendency to swing back and forth between different philosophies is quite counterproductive. We need an approach that combines the full range of useful approaches. Our reform efforts must become cumulative rather than episodic.

  56. Gotta love an America where asking more of our kids for THEIR OWN SAKES is rejected by both sides of the aisle for entirely different reasons.

  57. Ah, yes, good old Indiana... we don't want Common Core, we have refused the Medicaid expansion money, and our former school commissar, Tony Bennett, cheated and lied on and about the way he graded certain schools. We elected the tea-party Michele Bachmann-supporting former Congressman Mike Pence as governor, and rather than act as governor still thinks his primary goal is to make Obama a one-term president, and is still trying to fight the Obama Presidency from the statehouse in Indiana.

    Common Core, at least on the surface, is a good idea in that a kid should be able to go into a classroom in Columbus, Indiana, or Columbus, Ohio, and be on the same page as any other kid. But after the politicians and school choice advocates have messed with the way the program is delivered, and after private schools have been able to cherry-pick the best students while public schools by their very mission have to take all who enter their doors, there is no way that Common Core can remain "common" in the way the program has been drawn up.

    Pity also the poor teachers, whose very jobs depend on not teaching but testing. I doubt not that there are bad teachers out there, but the constant refrain from so many in the public that U.S. education is inferior because of bad teachers has reached a ridiculous point, one that has more to do with AM talk radio and cable TV "news" than actual fact. The huge majority of teachers are good, and competent, and should not be held hostage to test-taking.

  58. Deep analysis and citing evidence from the text is what good teachers have been teaching all along. When tests lead to too many high or low scores, then the tests are profoundly flawed. Were these tests even piloted?

    The concept of the Common Core Standards is good, but the standards are overly and needlessly complex,and are not all developmentally appropriate for certain age groups, especially the lower ones. Unsurprisingly, most of the high scores were found in selective admissions schools (Success Academy, has a high student attrition rate and low special education and ESL kids). The populations in selective schools generally represent educated parents. The standards, are good, but require inferencing abilities and language development through exposure to rich literacy experiences prior to kindergarten and so are enjoyed by kids at screened schools. Poor performance by low income students will persist because these kids lack those literacy experiences.

    In addition, common core skills require that students read outside of school to train the mind to read for comprehension and interpretation as well as to connect the dots. But most kids do not read outside of school. All the threats to teachers and standards will be to no avail if kids do not read at home. So, I predict that in a few years, when test scores remain dismal, the standards will either be modified or abandoned altogether in favor of some new solution to socio-economic factors that teachers cannot control.

  59. Schools can help with that 'outside reading' requirement. My grandson's elementary school assigns reading as homework each night using a book at the appropriate level selected from the classroom or school library. Then each student takes a comprehension test the next morning so the teacher can track his skills.

    Sure, we need parents to encourage outside reading but the schools also play a part by making it an expected activity and providing the materials.

  60. Very good points. The one thing I would add is that it is just common sense that kids need to read at home. Their parents need to start them on that early. Parents know this and most do but some of them just don't do it, and thats a big fail. Teachers and schools can't do all the work. Parents need to realize that their kids in Manhattan aren't going to be competing for jobs with kids from Brooklyn in a few years, but with kids from Bangalore. Moore's law is driving down computing costs so that the location where a job is done is almost irrelevant. Those lazy, disorganized or just plain lousy parents need to wake up to this. Smart ones do, and these parents and educators who team together are the ones that produce great results. This is old fashioned but its also a matter of patriotism -- do we really want to be 25th in the world in reading and 31st in math?

  61. Very insightful post! Those in education have seen so many educational fads come and go that we become cynical of each new politicians "new idea" on how to "fix" education.
    As you so aptly put it, most of our struggling students are the victims of "socioeconomic factors that teachers cannot control."

  62. There's absolutely nothing wrong with rigorous standards. I welcome them. However, using our teachers and our students as guinea pigs is WRONG. The testing is ridiculous. Most do not realize what the tests are asking because they are "closed tests". So millions of tax dollars are used to create the exams, but taxpayers are prohibited from seeing what their money is specifically used for. Hmmmm.....

    Do you all want to know how most New York State teachers were inserviced about the Common Core? By being told to watch 6 web-based segments of very awkward conversations between David Coleman, Commissioner King, and a Nicole Kidman look-alike.

    Teachers were trained by watching poorly produced, weird video segments. Great job, NYSED! Can you imagine if that's how my children's teachers taught them reading? "Boys and Girls, watch this strange 6 minute video and then begin explicating a poem written by John Donne. Oh, don't worry. Just collaborate with one another. You'll be fine."

    Finally, I think it's quite curious that all of a sudden Arne Duncan is backing off of his ownership of standardized testing. Give me a break, Mr. Secretary. You know exactly how much pressure you put on the States to get this thing done.

  63. From the time that TV became affordable and popular, it has increasingly been used for entertainment, "education." and babysitting.

    It's a fact that the better our children read, the better they will perform in any subject since every subject has a textbook.

    Early TV fanatics had more time to do what they wanted to do because the kids were being kept occupied by the TV, and what suffered? Reading! Spelling! Grammar! Sentence structure! Etc.!

    As the family structure went from one working parent to two working parents, and then to single parents and parents with multiple jobs, the youngsters were left to their own resources and without parental supervision the process of dumbing-down that started with TV accelerated and the school subjects needed to succeed in today's world became un-cool, became nerdy.

    How can we expect children to perform at the levels they will need to in order to get the jobs of today when they have not been prepared? We have allowed our children to live through this dumbing-down process while the requirements of today's jobs require smartening up.

    OK, so now we are seeing that TV and unsupervised hours do not lead to success in college, and we have made a core curriculum that we think all kids should learn, and we are right, but our children are not ready to face it head on.

    We need to start with a junior core curriculum and gradually increase its difficulty until we are teaching our children what we were taught fifty years ago, respectively.

  64. I disagree on one point: early TV didn't necessarily cause academic skills to decline. I've was a child during the early days of TV, and it was different. Presenters on TV spoke well and used good grammar. Scripted programs were generally more literate; actors spoke with good diction, too. We wanted to emulate them because of that. Programming taught us that there was more to our lives than buying what was shown in the commercials. There was a lot more "culture" on broadcast TV, and such programs were presented not, as on most of public television, as pretentious boons bestowed on the the cuturally needy, but as mainstream entertainment.

    Television today takes the easy way out, and follows trends instead of setting standards. But it, and its decendants, are not going to go away. If we want out kids to speak properly think clearly, and to have a life outlook that goes beyond their own selfish, inane impulses, we need to fix television as well as the schools.

  65. What seems evident in the article is that teachers have not had enough preparation for instituting the Common Core curriculum in their classrooms. When we short-change teachers, their students suffer.

  66. You need to look at the statistics on the poor performance of teachers and specifically the lousy school(s) of education preparation.

  67. There is no doubt that standards and expectations need to be raised. We also need a set of national standards and tests. However, these standards are a huge jump for the students. When I first read the standards I knew that we would have a bloodbath in regard to test results. I've nicknamed it "The Great Leap Forward" One problem is society expects a simple and quick solution which is simply not possible. Students aren't robots, and change this massive will take years to implement. Let's follow 1st graders as they move through the system and follow their progress. The new standards are akin to having students skip several grades. It's not setting them or the teachers up for success. To have a successful educational system the U.S. needs rigorous but realistic (developmentally appropriate) standards and accountability of students, teachers, and parents. We really need a cultural shift in the way we view education. It's simply not valued or a priority in many homes in this country.

  68. Why hasn't the NYC DOE released our children's scores yet? Parents are left to read about all of this hand wringing by policy wonks and talking heads. The DOE and schools have had these scores for weeks yet the parents and students still do not have the scores! Doesn't this fact alone speak volumes about whose interests are being catered to here?

  69. The main problem underlying this "reform" movement is that these "reformers", starting with Arne Duncan and including King and Tisch and the so-called panel of experts who devised these tests, have no classroom teaching experience and wouldn't last 5 minutes in a typical high needs school.

    Furthermore, since these scores will ultimately be tied to teacher evaluation with Danielson, then most teachers would have been judged ineffective on the testing component of the evaluation. So let's say we get a pass this year. What will happen next year and thereafter, when test scores -- I am certain -- will not increase? Will all of these students' teachers be fired when they get 2 consecutive ineffectives as required by the evaluation? Will our administrators wait for the kids to catch up before we are rated ineffective? And why didn't the students of all of Bloomberg's new schools, with young energetic teachers who replaced the old "deadwoods" who were pushed out when schools were closed, perform better throughout all these years he's controlled the schools?

    As for college remediation, there are a host of reasons for the need. Not everyone has the ability for such high level college work. We have to face and accept the fact that human ability is variable and thus provide other career opportunities. Also, when students don't come to class every day, pay attention and do the work, and READ, READ, READ, they will not be ready for college work.

  70. Countries that are far ahead of us in educational achievement have national standards and higher standards. Are we wimps? I'm all for pushing the ability to think and analyze, but that presumes a certain store of knowledge and an appreciation for facts (all of them) when available rather than trying to "logic" one's way through.

    Even kids who are not college bound need to be able to read/write/speak well and comprehend, understand the difference between a well evidenced argument and knee-jerk handwaving, and be numerically/scientifically/health literate if they are to understand issues they vote and act on to be good citizens, do well at their jobs, and easily run their lives (taxes, household economy, comparing insurance plans or mortgages etc.). Even our college graduates fall short of this.

    So, Ravitch has it wrong again - a good education is not just for the college bound, and standards in most of the country were higher 100 years ago for grade school and up as demonstrated by the 8th grade test from 1912 that is currently floating around the internet.
    http://www.bullittcountyhistory.com/bchistory/schoolexam1912.html

  71. So tell me what countries you admire and what have their students achieved? Which ones have gone to the moon or mars? Which ones put a telescope into space? Which ones have put multiple satellites into space? Which ones developed the digital camera, personal computer the internet? Which ones produce movies you regulary watch? I want to know because according to you i must have my head in the sand.

  72. miken:

    As for where your head is, I won't say, but I will say that you need to stop taking discussions about improving things in this country as bashing the U.S. and as a personal attack.

    As I said to your similarly jingoistic comment above, those who drove the space program were the elite of our elite, and some instrumental foreigners (Von Braun) - the standards are not aimed at the elite but at the average Joes, yet, the elite can benefit.

    Consider also that many of the achievements you mention had their genesis in the 1950s, 1960s when the U.S. was the only major industrial country left unscathed by WWII, and the cold war was a spur for us while others were rebuilding - e.g., prior to WWII, Germany and Denmark were major hotbeds for physics, not the U.S. We had the money, intact industrial capacity and key immigrants who helped us achieve what we did. Others have had to play catchup and some have gotten there (autos, steel, the CERN super collider).

    You mention movies as if it's a "gotcha" - I can rattle off dozens of foreign films that are at the top of my movie list, but naturally, we get more 'mer'can films here because, this is the U.S.

    As for other countries I admire, I don't go around admiring countries in a black and white fashion - that's childish; they all have good and bad.

  73. The only way to get the Feds out of schools is to allow states to do their own testing. You can watch the Red states slide to the back of the bus and the Blues rocket into all the high paying jobs. then the Reds can blame Obama for itall.

  74. The ultimate goal of education should be the development of critical reasoning skills. The biggest flaw of educational theory of the last few decades, however, has been the dismissal of the importance of "memorization and formulas" as an essential step in the development of critical reasoning skills.

    Much educational theory is based on two false assumptions: 1) information technology frees us from the need to memorize because we can always find the "facts" and 2) thinking outside the box is, on its face, critical thinking. In my years of teaching college, I have witnessed the increasing inability of many students to find "facts" because they don't have a knowledge base formed in memory that allows them to search. I have also witnessed the increasing inability of many students to think "outside the box" because they don't have the basic tools to first think "inside the box" or even understand that there might be a box.

    To rephrase Einstein's statement about religion and science, memorization and an understanding of formulas without the application of critical thinking skills is lame; critical thinking skills without memorization and an understanding of formulas is blind. Current educational theory seems caught between those who insist on remaining lame and those who insist on becoming blind.

  75. An Einstein quote that may be apropos:

    "After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in aesthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well."

    The technical skill must be part of the mix.

    Good to see another fan of Our Mutual Friend, by the way. :-)

  76. Are you speaking for yourself, or "in character" as Headstone? ; )

    Headstone & co certainly belong SOMEWHERE in this discussion?

    Paging Mr. M'Choakumchild?

    And Mr Thwackum?

    Fielding is not so far off from Dickens, when it comes to righteous indignation about education and bad treatment of children, is he?

    Personally, I think "ALL OF THE ABOVE" (a classic standardized test answer, of course) would LOVE "standards" and the stress on standardized testing...

  77. I'm not familiar with the Einstein quote about religion and science, but it's clearly reminiscent of Kant's claim in The Critique of Pure Reason: "thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind." So this formulation is perhaps better credited to Kant than to Einstein.

  78. Citizens troubled by perceptions of academic decline make hay. As a school board member, this is an American tradition demonstrated monthly. Some school districts have the community endowments, from lifestyles to taxes, to produce the nominal results popularly desired. Others don't. Innovation can achieve a lot, but innovators learn to stay under the radar, lest someone post it on YouTube.

    The U.S., which "does the right thing after trying everything else," will gradually adopt rigorous standards. The anti-gov't types and anti-testers squeal, each getting to block the path, but things must change. The Core's flaws will get debated, adjustments made, alternatives offered, and in 20 years some regions will use it successfully. Some parts of the country will be left behind, and proud of it.

  79. How many teachers will be fired due to inaccurate tests? How many kids will lose art and music class to pass math tests that are unrealistic?

  80. I'm glad that California is adopting Common Core. It's much better than rote memorization or trick question tests that are currently in use around the world. Businesses need people who can think analytically rather than regurgitate data. Because so many states are adopting these standards, people can move from state to state and be less concerned about falling behind or catching up. Labor mobility is good for US competitiveness.

    So while states opt out or weaken their standards, we will race ahead.

  81. Really? So how is it we got to the moon, created the elctronic calculator, digital camera, personal computers the internet on and on... with the education system that produced the nasa people i saw in the control room on tv in 1969, people like steve jobs etc. how did that happen? Common core is just a way for liberals to get their hands on the ideology they want enforced in every school along with their transgender liberties to choose any bathroom. This is madness all of it.I have been around the world and i don't understand all the liberals who tell us the rest of the world is doing a better job in education. Maybe we should look at results and not test grades.

  82. miken:

    Standards were typically higher 50-100 years ago, if not formally at least in fact. Moreover, some of those who turbo-boosted our space program were foreigners (Von Braun), and, the rest were the elite of our elite. It's not the elite who the standards are aimed at but the average Joes, but even the elite stand to benefit.
    http://www.bullittcountyhistory.com/bchistory/schoolexam1912.html

  83. Miken, we did all those things because our education system *used* to be the best in the world. It still is, for the elite -- we have the best universities and wonderful prep schools and top publics (rich districts, selective, etc.).

    Things have change dramatically as we try to educate a new cohort of students. Standards have plummeted and the conservative movement to teach to the test has proved a disaster, hurting the performance of the brightest students and producing a generation of students who professors will tell you *cannot do college work.* All they know how to do is learn by rote and answer multiple choice questions.

    We liberals have a hand in this too. For one thing, we fail to acknowledge cultural issues. The children of Asian and Hispanic immigrants attend the same schools, and the Asian kids do better than white kids, while the Hispanic kids do much worse. School districts may be forced to spend more than half of their budgets on non-productive special education, and teachers are forced to teach developmentally handicapped students in mainstream classrooms -- children who cannot sit still and disrupt the class. It isn't unusual for teachers in poor school districts to spend more than half of their time on classroom management, at which point, educators will tell you, real learning can't occur. Some schools no longer teach algorithmic arithmetic!

    But "teach to the test" mandates have only made things worse.

  84. We really have dropped the ball on giving our youngsters the education they deserve; one that will even 'adequately' prepare them to compete (let alone survive) in a future global economy that sees human labor as expendable and easily replaced with either robots, machines or peasants. Unfortunately, that is the reality.
    But what I'm not hearing from any of these supposed expert educators is this. If more than half of these children failed the "Core Curriculum" tests- why is that all THEIR fault? Why are these Federal "experts" not looking into how well (or how poorly?) our University's are doing in churning out our elementary and secondary teachers. My sense is that the failing of students is more of a refection of the mediocrity of skill levels of our graduating college educators, I'm sorry to have to say. Giving third graders tests that use fancy wording to try to fool them is downright Darwinian. I'd refuse to take it too. Test wording foolery does only one thing and that is to distract from addressing what many of us are increasingly seeing as the real problem. Poor and mediocre teaching(er) skills. It happens when we choose to not pay our educators a decent wage and we all end up poorer for it.

  85. Mean SAT/ACT scores for matriculating education majors have been falling every decade since the 1960's when the tests were first given.

    And also the mean scores for journalism/communications majors.

  86. @M.E.N. Indeed they have but interesting how you never hear anything about this problem from either the Universities or these "experts". Both are too busy chasing the dollars ( focus is on tuition (and school loyalty) rather than academic excellence- which also supports their bloated sports programs), "experts" who are paid too handsomely to really look at the problem- below the surface. Our education system has become nothing more than a politicized popularity contest. Little wonder why Europe does so so much better.

  87. Attention is being paid to that, see the article on that very topic yesterday.

    However, it seems unlikely that the best and brightest will be attracted to education given that teachers are treated poorly and offered inadequate support, hobbled by requirements to teach to the test and to teach developmentally disabled students in the general classroom, earn much less money, and are used as the fall guys for our social problems.

    It takes either someone very dedicated to choose that career path at this point, or someone who can't make it in a profession like medicine or law.

  88. The problem is the diminished role of school in the lives of most of our kids. The solution requires commitment. Every child should go to some form of summer school: review, enrichment, and recreation for those who are passing and tough-as-nails remediation for those who are not. Schools should once again offer an array of electives and occupational courses, such as auto and wood shop, and stop condescending to the kids who aren't college bound. Testing should only be high stakes: i.e. required for promotion rather than used furtively to evaluate teachers. School should be the major source of pressure and rewards in our kids' lives. Without that kind of klout, kids can hardly be expected to exert the effort required to succeed.

  89. Agree with electives and occupation courses, but summer school? Please, poor students need it, but the main problem we had when I was in prep school was that there wasn't enough in the high school curriculum to keep us occupied for four years -- and we were well prepared for college level work. For high-performing students, summer school is a waste.

  90. I agree. They've chipped away and chipped away all of the classes that were critical. I'm sure they got rid of home ec and wood shop, because, oh gosh, the kids might get hurt doing real life things. But there should not be the traditional testing. Those test are pointless. What they need, is have the students write papers on what they've been taught and how to apply what they've learned, to real life situations. It's the best way to see if they actually have comprehension skills, which they will most certainly need in the work force.

  91. Common Core developed by :"experts"? Really? They could manage to find only one teacher who was deemed qualified to sit on the panel? Oh right, with so many consultants paid by testing companies available, why bother including anyone who actually teaches children? And no need to test the test since these "experts" are so gifted and knowledgeable...
    Come on Common Core.

  92. Susan as a teacher I agree. Unfortunately, I believe that educators will have to start creating their own action research on educational theory and practice at the school and district level, and be published before any consultant will take them imput seriously. In my view, that professionalization of the field has the potential to give teachers not only more data to drive decisions and student academic success in content area subjects, but would likely give educators truly professional standing on par with say lawyers in our society. As it stands now, teachers are still in American society seen as quasi-professionals. The vast majority hardly fit that profile, but that is likely why you only saw one token teacher on the panel. I do like the idea of national standards and formative assessments though over strictly summative multiple choice tests to determine teacher effectiveness and student academic progress. If the nation is going to get serious about education, besides starting with funding, then these "snapshots" of a student on a specific narrow test on one given day need to be replaced by deeper and broader lens on what exactly are students learning in these classrooms. Formative and online assessments will provide that window of understanding which will benefit teacher and students alike.

  93. I teach engineering at a community college and I have been really shocked at the students inability to perform any form of problem logical analysis which is the core of engineering discipline. They are more at home with memorization than first principals analysis and to test students I rely on open book multiple choice questions and even then many fail. If the USA is going to compete in the high tech world, its students are going to have to to do logical thinking instead of memorization and I really hate to see education becoming a political football of the right wing in this country.

  94. I've looked at the mathematics standards and they seem quite reasonable. Too many students enter college unprepared for college level work and have to take remedial courses. That delays their completion of college programs and costs them time and money. We are not educating enough engineering and science majors and depending too much on foreign students to make up the deficiency. Uniform national standards make a lot of sense.

  95. The problem is not the standards. The problem is that the tests are harder and more complex than they need to be.

  96. the problem is not the standards. the problem is that we have raised a generation of dumb kids brainwashed by electronic entertainment.

  97. "The tests are harder than they need to be"

    Kate, if you want these kids to do well in 4 year degree granting colleges?

    Then these tests need to be "hard."

  98. All tests ought to be easy, right? Then everybody feels good. Or maybe everyone ought to choose- difficult test or easy test. In such a situation probably children of years ago immigrants would choose easy,while those of recent immigrants and those who had just crossed the border would choose difficult. It is the American thing

  99. This whole thing reminds me of a soccer team that loses 10 to nothing, and then blames their loss on the condition of the field.

  100. It's too difficult...we're expecting them all to be A students...not everyone needs to go to college...I'm disappointed in Diane Ravitch. Yes it's true not everyone needs to go to college, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't still try to give everyone a first rate education K-12. In fact, if our K-12 education is actually solid and high standard, many people might not need to go to college at all, especially with the advent of MOOCs.

    One bad test year and everyone is calling for throwing in the towel. The tea partyers who can't see the need for any kind of national standard are just making noise, let them go make noise. The parents and teachers who complaint about it being too difficult and want to junk the Common Core or force a lowering of standards should be ashamed of themselves. Our kids are falling behind and having difficult time keeping up with the foreign kids in STEM fields. Increasingly STEM jobs even within the US are going to foreign grads, and employers are calling for ever more H1B visas. These are the jobs of the new knowledge economy. Already 50% of college grads are either unemployed or underemployed. How many more do we need? Forget the sports and the video games and the sexting and reality TV, It's time for America to buck up and make our youth hit the books like youth all over the world!

  101. Joanne: You're (willfully?) missing the point about STEM jobs. Corporations are begging for H1B Visas because they can pay engineers $30K a year for foreign grads when American grads (especially those with $100K+ in student loans) have, um, salary requirements, well beyond the foreign grads that corporations bring in to suppress pay scale.
    The daughter of one of my sister's med school classmates went to Cornell Engineering, and graduated in 2009. She reported to her appalled parents that Cornell Engineering had *canceled* its annual engineering job fair. Why hire more expensive American grads when the government helps companies to cheap out with foreign grads willing to work for pennies on the dollar?

  102. Why does the New York Times (like most other mass media outlets) continue to propagate the myth that the Common Core standards "were written by a panel of experts convened by governors and state superintendents"? Do your homework, NYT. Although the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have led the development of these standards, the "experts" who were largely responsible for writing them can only loosely be described as "education experts." Neither David Coleman nor Susan Pimental, who were central to the writing of the literacy standards, has any formal training in education in general or in curriculum and pedagogy in particular, and neither has any experience as either a classroom teacher or a teacher educator (though Coleman apparently tutored high school kids while he was a student at Yale). I really expect more from the New York Times when it comes to covering important education issues like this one.

  103. Judging by the sample questions I've seen, the Common Core is appropriate for a college-preparatory curriculum. The problem is that, as Diane Ravitch points out, college is not appropriate or possible for all children. The questions are too conceptual for the many children who cannot conceptualize: indeed, I know many adults who would be unable to handle them.

    We owe it to parents and children to let them know whether they are proceeding at an appropriate level for the college bound. But a mandate that says all students must pass this test is unrealistic. What will happen in practice is that schools and teachers, pressured to increase scores, will drill students who can't handle conceptual work endlessly in an attempt to instill through rote the ability to handle questions that are supposed to measure understanding.

    Let us call these tests what they are, a test of preparation for college-level work, and remove the punitive element that creates perverse incentives for teachers and schools to "teach to the test" at the expense of actual education. There is ample precedent for this: the only real difference between these tests and the SATs is that the common core tests are administered on an ongoing basis to monitor progress and keep schools honest about whether children are being prepared for university study. If we don't, I fear we're in for a repeat of the disappointment we've experienced with the current tests, which have harmed education rather than helped it.

  104. Obama and Duncan have simply no educational policy.

    No Child Left Behind had weakness but what has replaced it is a policy of waivers to the existing law and no real attempt to correct ares of needing accountability e.g. tutoring ( that should be offered by non- profits only)

    The policy put forth consisted of a power point called "Race to the Top"- whatever that means, no specifics just generalizations. Duncan is and was an incompetent leader both in Chicago and as Sec. Of Education, the facts are - as established by a Harvard study "during the Clinton-Bush era (1999 to 2008), white 9-year-olds gained 11 points in math, African-American student performance rose by 13 points and Hispanic student performance leaped by 21 points. In reading, the gains by white 9-year-olds went up seven points, black performance jumped by 18 points and Hispanic student achievement climbed 14 points.
    Those remarkable gains came to an end after the Obama administration took charge. Between 2008-12, gains by African-Americans at age 9 were just two points in each subject, while Hispanics gained one point in reading and nothing in math. Whites gained one point in reading and two points in math."

    Common Core is dead on arrival and maybe that is the plan, given the likes of Ravitch ( who by the way get $20,000 for speaking appearances ) who wants no accountability and a return to the cut and paste non - standards and curriculum.

  105. Your argument is based on inherent logical flaws that result from your apparent misunderstanding of data. Although passed in 2001, NCLB didn't take effect until 2003. The first data was released in 2005, yet was based on comparisons of results from pre-NCLB tests in 2000 and post-NCLB tests, a basic flaw in statistical analysis--comparing apples and oranges, if you will. Secondly, Obama was not president in 2008 and the first wavers to NCLB were not granted until 2012. Hence, the data showing supposed slowing of "improvement" between 2008-12 that you cite, if they are in fact accurate, are results from the NCLB testing regime and reflect only the success or failure of NCLB, not of any policy of the Obama administration. Additionally, you end by seeming to lament that CC is "dead on arrival," yet NCLB specifically disparaged national common core standards.

  106. We need to face facts: American students compete with the world, and right now, they're not doing so well by almost any standard you want to use for comparison. We simply cannot sustain this mediocrity and expect to be competitive; if the Common Core is tough, perhaps it needs to be even tougher.

  107. While "conservatives" oppose Common Core based on an anti-government (read: anti-Obama) ideology, schools have been under local control for decades and look where that's gotten us: middling performance on the world stage.

    "Liberal" opponents conflate CC and increased "high-stakes" testing, but testing has been on the rise, CC or not.

    Still others oppose CC because it's "too hard", based on recent test results. But it's possible there was a latent defect, like testing a subject before it was taught (hello, NYSED), or questions that were poorly conceived:

    http://ccssimath.blogspot.com/2013/08/nyseds-released-2013-exam-question...

    Finally, there are those that recognize CC as a money grab disguised as reform. Indeed, companies like Pearson stand to make a fortune. Gates is funding CC, but profiting when schools upgrade equipment.

    Common standards make sense; the highest performing countries have them. CC, though, was hurriedly conceived by unqualified "educrats" with insufficient oversight or review. We don't oppose CC or its goals, but we find fault with the specifics. The math standards are not "internationally benchmarked"; that's a long-refuted myth. It offers a hodgepodge of math skills without a comprehensive vision.

    Corporations like Google continue to clamor for more H1B visas because there's a shortage of skilled high-tech workers in the US. CC perfectly implemented is not going to make that problem go away.

    Common Core needs to be fixed, not nixed.

  108. Google hires HI visa workers because they are cheaper than our grads. Why does my pastry chef need to know advanced math as well as the engineer that designed my car? Education fits the student, not reverse. The goal of education isn't to make workers, it is to make kids decent and thinking humans.

  109. Of course most kids flunk the common core exams. They flunk because they have been the victims of decades of misguided educational policy pushed by so-called schools of education: Tell everyone that they are brilliant and let the students decide what to learn! And teach them prolem-solving strategies, instead of building foundational knowledge.

  110. I was fortunate to have attended a very progressive, public elementary school as a child with "groups" moving ahead instead of grades. The experience lived with me into my teaching years, and I saw the results from teaching "to the test" as required in one school, and my delight in using the individual critical thinking of my students in another school with broad discretion given to teachers. My students in that school in the 5th grade wrote, acted in and designed and produced the set for their original play which we presented to the entire school as an "English" project. Each child felt much pride in being an important part of the cooperative project and learned a great deal from the experience. i.e. grammar, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation,public speaking. This was a pre-runner to the Core method and it worked very well, but It did take my previous experience as a student to understand the differences.

    As more teachers are offered help in understanding how Core works, they will understand how liberating it is for students to use their innate curiosity to solve all kinds of problems, not just mathematical ones. My advice to teachers and school districts is to get the training necessary and you will see results. Patience is everything.

  111. If you ask the leaders of nearly any industry what needs to be done in order to advance their endeavor, they'll tell you to loosen regulations and make the pay attractive enough to attract the best. They'll tell you this without exception - engineering, plumbing, real estate, finance, whatever.

    Except education. The "education reform" movement is about tightening regulation, cutting pensions and benefits, and slashing pay.

  112. I can't think of two more inappropriate people to devise and support a national control over public school education than Arne Duncan and Barack Obama, both of whom seem inordinately challenged in articulating their thoughts or the thoughts of others. I have yet to talk to a professional educator who does anything but lampoon this latest move by Obama and Co. to homogenize our citizens by lowering - that's right, lowering - standards of everything they touch.

    I'm not surprised that most comments are positive; this country has been infantilized mercilessly, and no longer has the maturity to reason effectively, nor to communicate with each other in web of discourse appalling in its lack of sophistication and integrity.

  113. Naluca, the Common Core standards were developed by the National Governor's Association and numerous educators, researchers, parents, and policymakers, not by the federal government. States are not required to adopt them, though nearly all of them have. Obama and Company are simply providing incentives and resources for implementation, but not national control.

  114. mford, the National Governor's Association is a trade association or, "an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry" as is The Council of Chief State School Officers, which also helped create the standards.

    According to Diane Ravitch, "states ... would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law," which explains why most of the states have adopted them.

  115. Let's find that nation in the world that does the best in education and use their system.

  116. That might require an influx of cash to hire from the top third of college graduates. Or a concerted federal effort (a la Finland) to make teaching so desirable and respected an occupation that many in the top third will choose it.

  117. The highest rated schools internationally, such as Finland's, tend to be highly homogenous in a way that American schools cannot be. Many countries also only send the more academically inclined to the college-bound track, funneling others off to vocational programs.

  118. In many parts of the country, especially the astronomically taxed New York suburbs, residents are beginning to realize that the quality of the schools touted by overcompensated district superintendents, administrators and teachers is not what it should be. Students are routinely permitted to graduate without the proper English, math and other basic skills needed to make their way in the world.

    People are going to discover that those $300,000-a-year superintendents, $200,000-a-year administrators and $125,000-a-year teachers -- with their rich pensions, retirement health benefits and other perks -- aren't delivering their money's worth to the satisfaction of overburdened taxpayers.

  119. Oh please. We teachers raise you kids for you. You blame us when your kids put out little effort..

  120. New York State HS Teacher here. The Common Core are standards, simply a set of 'What American students should be capable of at certain benchmarks throughout their education". The standards are not the problem.
    If we are to be competitive in the world we need to ramp up standards for everyone.
    I listen to fellow colleagues concerns and I hear some valid points about how the speed of adoption and change does not come close to the professional development needed for such change. However, the truth of the matter is that the best schools in the country have been going beyond these standards; they always have, and they always will. If we were using the standards to make education more equitable then this would be terrific.
    Unfortunately, the test that NY test writers produced were not well done-combining an overhaul of tests with the tie in to teacher scores was not wise because there were too many repercussions all at once. It is akin to releasing a prototype to market and bankrupting a company only to see that idea make millions for a company that does it R & D fully before production.
    Education standards are a good idea, too much testing with badly written tests are a death knell for any program.

  121. Of course, scores are going to be low, if just because students have not previously been asked to think critically. And, they have not. It's a national disgrace that 40% of freshmen are unprepared for college. Most of that lies at the feet of high school teachers and principals.
    I have taught college freshmen and know they are incompetent in critical thinking, in writing, and in math skills. And many of them do not care.
    HERE'S IS EDUCATION TODAY - THE RESULT OF A CASUAL, IF NOT AGGRESSIVE, DISREGARD FOR LEARNING AND EDUCATION - A PLAGUE THROUGHOUT THIS COUNTRY SINCE THE 1970S WHICH CANNOT BE TURNED AROUND IN A YEAR OR TWO.
    All good things take time to produce; grumbling and screaming do nothing to hasten the process.

  122. Teachers aren't to blame. We do our jobs. Parents on the other hand have no time to be parents. And if they do have time its not spent getting Johnny and Janey ready for the next school day..or week .. Or month .. Or year. The hardest working kids have parents pushing them. Usually immigrants who want a better life for their kids. And those kids appreciate these opportunities. In sum, no support, no results. No expectations, no effort.

  123. Professor, there is a grammatical error in your screed about incompetent students.

  124. Can we hope that Obama administration does not retreat?

  125. Is there any possibility that U.S. students are failing not because of the teachers or the tests but because they simply aren't working hard? Perhaps this generation wants to be entertained more than it wants to learn.

  126. It's the parents who don't want to put the time in to help their kids learn.

  127. Meanwhile, kids in private highschools dont take these exams at all.

  128. Correct. Typically, their class exams and finals are very challenging, and the expectation is that all students need to show their competencies in subject matters, along with critical thinking, analysis, and interaction with their peers.

  129. In some districts in the U.S., third graders start at age eight or nine. In others (such as NYC public schools) a good chunk of the class starts at age seven. Some third graders started real school in first grade, with non-mandatory or half-day kindergartens. Others had academic universal pre-K, full-day academic K, plus the first and second grade years by the time they hit third. It is unrealistic to expect kids whose ages vary widely and whose amount of school exposure varies widely to be ready for the identical curriculum and tests. Schools need to either be locally designed or not, rather than half and half.

  130. I attended a private, privileged high school (class of 2002) and a wealthy man came to speak to us during an assembly; we were neither informed of the speaker of the content of the message to be delivered. This man had more money than he could spend and told us of his child that did very poorly in school, got hooked on drugs, and died of an overdose. The overriding message was that nobody is too privileged to fail, and have their lives ruined. He stressed the fact that your life is what you make of it. I see this issue through the prism of that message. There is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging students, especially these days when it seems general, what you'd call liberal arts knowledge is continuing its sharp decline. Furthermore, more and more surgeons individuals holding high ranking positions come from cultures and families that engender high expectations in their children. Of course there is a balance, and not all parents need be "Tiger Parents" as the saying goes; but I find the uproar of actually expecting success from our younger people very, very troubling (not to mention in this job market you have HAD to excel).

    I also understand that there are those that simply cannot keep up with these challenging curriculum changes. There should be a program for them that at least provides a way for them to be productive members of society without the shame of not meeting the highest standards. I'll repeat, nobody is too privileged to fail, & we need success.

  131. I'm the dad of a 2nd grader who struggled last year as a new reader and then caught up mid-year. I've spent lots of time learning about the schools' curriculum and how to help my son succeed within it.

    The Common Core is imperfect, and it's also a big step forward. It should be allowed to move forward and evolve, not aborted. Once you read the standards instead of all the brouhaha about them--they were intentionally written to be easily understood by parents--it's clear there's common sense to them.

    Sadly, local opponents of Common Core are slamming the door on thoughtful dialog.

    Here's a prominent example.

    Nashville Parent (for profit, circ. 42,000/mo.) is a free, invaluable resource to parents, telling us about every kid-focused event or opportunity within 50 miles.

    Yet they just ran a hit piece against Common Core: http://www.nashvilleparent.com/2013/08/the-trouble-with-the-common-core/

    They normally encourage readers to comment freely on their Facebook page, role-modeling democracy-in-action that I want my son to learn and value. As I said, usually a GREAT resource.

    Not so for Common Core. They're deleting any post even vaguely in favor, even one that merely suggested parents READ THE STANDARDS for themselves.

    Please consider going here: https://www.facebook.com/NashvilleParentMag

    ... and posting for readers to READ THE STANDARDS for themselves here: http://www.corestandards.org/

    This needs to be a conversation. I don't want my son caught in political crossfire.

  132. At least at the high school level, if anyone in a school district had paid any attention to SAT and ACT scores of the supposedly college bound students they would already
    know that high school juniors were,as a group, not even close to their status as rising juniors. The average Math ACT score
    hovers around 21. To see what this means, go to

    http://www.act.org/standard/planact/math/index.html

    and you will see that for too long high school educators have
    had their heads in the sand. Now they will be called to account.

  133. The average math act score of 21 roughly correlates with an IQ in the average range (104 or so). Hence, not a surprising finding that the average ACT score for math is in that range. Perhaps our ever rising expectations for children in the average or below average range of intelligence needs to be re-examined?

  134. This process should not be as difficult as it has been portrayed to be. Step One: use the Federal government's strategic plan to develop platform businesses to project what tasks will be done in twenty years. Base schools' curriculum on that. Step Two: go back to Step One as that was never done! Why we believe as a nation that teaching to the needs of twenty years --or more-- ago will support our needs twenty years from now, baffles me. And 'no', more testing does not equate to better learning.

  135. It seems odd that everyone what's our children to have a better educational foundation, but don't want their children challenged. Politicians, parents, business leaders all agree the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world due to a "so called" knowledge deficit when our children graduate from high school or university. To turn it around there is not a magic bullet, it has to be done with hard work and dedication. I believe that a country wide system such as this will help parents, teachers, schools and businesses coordinate their effort by helping each other.

    The closer we get to a real solution the anxiety level always increase. I just hope for once the citzens of the U.S. stick together and keep their eye on the prise and not fail our children. The naysayers are the same individuals who say no to any change--good or bad.

  136. Wouldn't it be interesting if we could implement the standards without the standardized testing? The whole point is to teach all American children what they need to know, and I believe the CC standards are a solid step in that direction. Why is it that we think a standardized test is the only way to show whether the standards are working? Under this philosophy, the goal is to teach them to do well on a test, not to teach them what they need to know. Drop the testing and focus on the teaching!

  137. If you have learned what you need to know, you'll do well on a test of that knowledge. What alternative to testing do you suggest for determining whether students have acquired the knowledge and skills specified in the Common Core standards?

  138. Too hard? We are living in a world where there are more and more people and fewer and fewer low or unskilled jobs. Children in school will need to be creative thinkers who can effectively problem solve. They will need to have strong Math, Science, and Interpersonal Skills. They will need to be adept in communicating in many different modes and media. The will need to be able to work teams. They will need to speak more than one language. All this in the hopes that they will be able to compete for an entry level job in the not too distant future. And there competition won't just be the smart kid in the next desk or the next town or even the next state. They will be competing for work with the best and brightest in the rest of the world.

    Our population is growing and the supply of jobs, especially those with any sort of benefits and decent wages is shrinking. What will be harder, mastering this curriculum or figuring out where their next meal is going to come from in 20 years time when there are no jobs they are qualified for and plenty of people just like them, people unprepared for an automated economy with a scarcity of human labor?

  139. As a former Board of Education member in the State of Connecticut, I know that aside from the Gifted and Talented programs which some schools are able to provide, the average public school teaches to the lowest common denominator. So many factors go into what makes a public school superior, it would take pages to describe them and then discuss them rationally.

    Suffice it to say that all public schools must strive to teach the things that students should know in order to succeed in this high-tech, ever moving body of knowledge. Common Core Core standards across the country are absolutely necessary as the first step to achieve this goal. Yes, there will be glitches and frustrations as this new program is put into place. But we as a people must understand that it must be done if we are ever to meet and surpass the standards being set in other countries.

    This morning I spoke with a close friend who lives in North Carolina. The Governor there just signed a bill that mandates that cursive be taught in all the public schools. I still write notes and thank yous in cursive. I'm becoming a dinosaur. I'm checking into the LaBrea tar pits!

  140. Another fine mess. The core curriculum concept is hardly new. It looks like more work for education consultants and test creators and not much more good education for our students.

  141. This is why you put your kids in private school.

    Politics plus political entrenched special interest mean that kids don't get the rigorous education they deserve. Then wealthy people put their kids in private schools or move to affluent areas where rigorous academic standards are encouraged.

    The result: wealth disparities.

  142. Education includes failure. Parents afraid of their kids being "experimented" with, when really they are afraid of failure are doing their kids more harm than good. Education IS an experiment. As is life. And that sure ain't easy.

  143. The real problem isn't the curriculum, our supposedly low standards or the teachers. The real problem is a system that relentlessly and cruelly defines children by their test scores. If you keep telling a child that they are not as smart as their classmates all it does is destroy self-esteem. Everyone grows up wanting to be productive, to contribute something of value to the world, but we're not all brilliant scientists. So why are children publicly judged by that standard. After spending years being ranked against the most academically gifted among us, many, many children leave school feeling that they're second rate. They might have learned more if, instead of being defined as C's or F's, they had been taught that whatever their contribution to the world was, it was necessary and vital, and that if they worked to the best of their abilities they would be rewarded. "Did you do your best?" might be a better metric than "How close are you to being a genius?"

    The committees that come up with these brave new standards ought to include people who have spent their lives fighting against the feeling that they are stupid and worthless because of judgments passed on them when they were innocent children.

  144. I've watched in my lifetime as American schools slipped lower in quality than many Third World nations, and we see daily that our children have problems competing. And every time someone tries to raise standards, teachers and parents yell that it's too hard, too high, too difficult, too demanding. What do they think economic life in the 21st century is? I feel sorry for the kids who are being so severely short-changed in their chance for a good life. Unless anyone thinks working at McDonald's is the most they should aim for?

  145. Emily Emirac:

    I agree with you with regard to prime time TV. We still talk about those shows today. They were imaginative, erudite, and hysterically funny.

    But, as I recall, day time TV, the time when children would most likely have been watching TV, consisted of mostly cartoons.

  146. And we should we be surprised? From the beginning with No Child Left Behind the school reform movement has largely been the project of elites in the media, politics, political think-tanks, foundations and business to impose a uniform, top-down agenda on a system that is diverse, highly decentralized, and organized and significantly paid for at the local level. There has never been an attempt to build a bottom-up consensus for what should be done with respect to school improvement that recognizes this diversity. So don't be surprised if local school board members, superintendents, teachers, parents and tax payers out there in the boondocks rebel.

  147. The problem with the development and implementation of the Common Core, as I see it, is Pearson's involvement and overarching influence in the entire education system. As with so many things in the US (prisons come to mind), there is a corporation behind the curtain, and they are pulling the policymakers' strings, as always.

  148. Exactly. Follow the money. The only people to benefit from No Child Left Behind were the test prep companies and charter school investors. I wonder who is profiting off this Common Core enterprise, while students still fall behind other countries.

  149. Public schools in the 1940's seemed to work very well. Let's go back to the stucture we had. Does America need all these special tests and all this bureaucracy?

    Richard Colman
    Orinda, California
    Former community-college mathematics instructor

  150. Follow the money. Who benefits most financially from the Common Core Standards? Answer that question and you'll find why Bill Gates and friends got behind them in 38 states....

  151. Who benefits most financially from the Common Core Standards? Students do - they learn more and are then able to get better jobs with higher pay.

  152. From the article:

    In an interview, Mr. Duncan acknowledged that the transition would be difficult. "It’s easier to keep saying everything’s looking great,” he said. “Potemkin village, whitewash the walls. That’s the easy way to do it, but I’m not quite sure that changes kids’ lives or helps our country remain competitive economically.”

    I couldn't say it any better.

  153. Huh?

    The article's opening point -- that opposition to "Core Standards" (aka "massive standardized testing for kids"] is somehow a Tea Party issue is HIGHLY misleading, to say the LEAST!

    MANY people -- PARTICULARLY PARENTS and PROGRESSIVES [aka the group formerly known as "liberals"] -- bitterly OPPOSE "Core Standards" and all their mandated standardized testing -- and test prep -- being foisted on OUR kids!

    This is ESPECIALLY true in NYC, where may parents (rightly) see this testing folderol as an obvious stalking horse for the anti-public schools, PRO-privatization, anti-teacher, and anti-union of Bloomberg! Given impetus by the heavy lobbying, massive financial contributions, and backroom wheeling-and-dealing of the test-prep and privatization special interests, all of whom stand to make $MILLIONS! (Viz. Pearson's $32 MILLION deal with NY--I believe a no-bid windfall too?)

    Not to mention:

    the fact that HUGE amount of classroom time "reallocated" from content -- like HISTORY -- to test-prep sessions! How is THAT raising educational "standards"!

    the ABUSE of testing to "evaluate" teachers, principals, and schools.

    manifest FLAWS, and simple BAD questions, in tests issued by Pearson & co.
    (E.g. the notorious "talking pineapple" question, badly adapted from a NONSENSE story! Unlike ETS test questions, which are "normed", Pearson's tests are NOT thus pre-tested, leaving in all sorts of flaws and ambiguities.

    All widely reported in the Times--and elsewhere!

  154. One point worth noting:

    Common Core is one thing. Standardized tests assessing them are another.

    Now, I know that they are coming part and parcel, but they are still very different things. Some on the left are getting upset about the testing, NOT necessarily the standards themselves.

  155. "Common Core is one thing. Standardized tests assessing them are another."

    Good point--and of course a valid one in abstract theoretical terms...

    BUT, "Standards," the "common core," and TESTING -- generally STANDARDIZED testing -- are ALWAYS yoked together by proponents of "standards" in actual practice in the USA now!

    So testing and "standards" really can't be separated -- tragically, perhaps -- in the current debate!

    The two "heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence" of sophistic argument, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson (admittedly in another context)!

    The original "Dr J" would presumably LOVE high standards of learning, but HATE standardized testing!

  156. As an educator and someone who sometimes agrees with Ravich, I am puzzled by her quote above. We may or may not be using a standard that is too high, that is up for debate, but the fact of the matter is that business and trade school interests were addressed in the creation of the Common Core standards. They were created, in part, to SUPPORT the idea that not all kids will go to college, but that the students will nonetheless need to be able to read trade manuals they will encounter in vocational fields.

    Maybe there are, as Ravich says, "a lot of kids who are being told that if they don’t go to college that it will ruin their life,” but that has nothing to do with the Common Core.

  157. Well, Mike, since we are both educators, and you think my assertions couldn't be "further from the truth" (I think you mean 'farther'), I would say that your comment that kids from poorer states will learn the same information as kids from wealthier states under Common Core is a bit naive.

    I posit that both groups of kids -poorer and wealthier - in public schools will possibly have the core information presented to them; whether both groups LEARN the information is another story. So, holding the kids who started out waay behind in kindergarten to the same standards as say, my kindergarten granddaughter who is privileged, is unfair to the poorer kid.

    Years of research have said that a student's progress in school, as well as his test scores, is positively correlated to his zip code.

    Despite this fact, I have always taught a "core curriculum" in my high school English classes. I did, however "cut some slack" with kids who tried mightily, and showed progress while in my class, but entered without the skills of their colleagues. A standardized test does not have that humanity built in.

    As to the cursive writing, it will be taught, regardless of what the "Core" says, in upper class public schools as well as public schools. Wait and see.
    .

  158. Remember Rachel Jeantel a key witness in the Trayvon Martin saga? She was ridiculed for among other things, not being able to read or write "cursive". Guess what? The gurus who wrote the "Common Core" decided that being able to read and write cursive is not important, and dropped that standard from the Core.

    Now a plumber's manual indeed is not written in cursive, but usually Times Roman font from a Chinese supplier.

    The "Common Core" is a devious way to make the "common" student even more common, when because of familial background, he starts school behind his less-than-common middle and upper class colleagues. Middle and upper class students will be taught to write cursive and will increase their critical thinking skills that were initially developed at home, prior to introduction to the Common Core.

    Why don't we just say that the "Common Core" will merely cement the "peasant/lord" social strata to which the US has been moving for years.

  159. Your assertions couldn't be much further from reality.

    First, cursive is being phased out of schools all over, not just in lower-earning disctricts.

    Second, Common Core does the opposite of what you are saying about "peasant/lord social strata". In fact, it actually ENSURES that students from a poorer state, like a Mississippi or Alabama are getting held to the same standards and are learning the same information as students from wealthy states like New York and New Jersey.

    Third, that plumber's manual you referenced was not able to be read by a sizable chunk of students graduating from high school. Again, that is a problem being explicitly addressed by Common Core.

  160. Here's an example of what's happening:

    The world's top tennis pros, men and women, are in Cincinnati this week. A local sports columnist has been attending their press briefings, and he wrote about how surprised he was that the foreign players -- from Belarus, Czech Republic, et al -- are so articulate, fluent in English, and seemingly well prepared. Their American counterparts, he went on to write, come across as barely literate, fumbling with the language, incomplete sentences, and strong doses of "you knows."

    Yes, these players may not be representative of the population as a whole. But as the sportwriter commented, did our kids not even go to high school?

  161. Unfortunately (for us) they are more representative than one would imagine. And this is exactly why I work myself to death to keep my kids in private school and save for their college educations.

  162. Any possibility of making teachers and administrators pass these tests?

    If they fail, why ARE they there?

  163. How about making the parents take the tests???

  164. Amongst the physics faculty at UNM we frequently bemoan the fact that freshmen physics students seem less prepared in math with each passing year. A high school diploma should mean something. Is there any other way to insure that it does then to set standards and test?

  165. The core of any education worth the name is a rich conversation between teacher and student. If that dialogue is already scripted on one side, then it isn't a conversation, but mere dictation.

    The heart of any vibrant classroom is a teacher who knows something meaningful about each of her/his students, and is able to connect that meaning to larger bodies of knowledge in an enticing and respectful way. That cannot happen when teachers are seen as mere delivery devices for a one-size-fits-all set of factoids.

    As much as I'd like to support any real education reform by the current administration, this kind of top-down standardization is what drives the most intelligent and creative teachers from the classroom.

    We should return to a reverence for a healthy teaching and learning relationship; a relationship which must respond to the particular context in which it grows. If it doesn't differ from classroom to classroom, it is simply not recognizing unique individual students who are striving to connect.

  166. As a physics teacher, I broke just about every school rule I deemed silly. Dress code? Really? Sending a kid to the office for being 5 minutes late to class? No phones? My kids used phones in class every day to submit homework answers. I was also blessed to have kids that cared. But as C. Whiting stated, a healthy relationship between students and teachers is critical. I loved my students. Even the annoying ones. I even....hugged them every now and then.

    This is a short clip of a typical day in my classroom.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlxXhPEH2wY

  167. only in America - parents and schools complain it is "too difficult" for students - in Asia, parents and schools would have complained that their students are not studying hard enough .... sigh... incredible.

  168. I went to high school in Europe while my parents stayed in NYC - they didn't want us going to American HS with all the prom and dating and popularity foolishness that goes on. When I came back to the US to attend my freshman year in college (at NYU) I was shocked at how easy all my courses were, especially the math and science courses, and how early we got out of school - not to mention the no Friday classes. To make a long story short, I basically partied my way through college, and finished in 3 years with a cum laude! So different from my friends back in Spain who spent their college years in an endless cycle of furious note taking, cramming and studying every single minute of the day. No wonder the US is so behind on everything.

  169. But only in Finland (that scores higher or just as high on international tests than Asia) do they spend less time teaching kids, no standardized curriculum, and are emphasizing creativity and innovation vs a standardized curriculum.

  170. I am in Asia, and I can assure you that the schools here are not all they are cracked up to be. At what do they excel? Rote memorization. At what do they fail? Innovation, creativity, and critical thinking.

    Enough with testing as the only criterion for school success. Take money back from the testing companies and put it in the hands of local districts to restore reasonable class size, the arts, adequate physical education, and decent teacher salaries. I can assure you that no one will be touting Asian schools as superior then.

  171. While I think, generally speaking, its a good idea to have basic standards that all students must meet, articles like this fail to address what creating new teaching standards fully means in our school systems and how they really won't address the bigger, chronic issues.

    We are continually throwing new teaching standards and requirements at our teachers year after year, forcing them to spend the majority of their preplanning and planning periods filling out forms, creating worksheets and bulletin boards, learning a new testing scheme, etc. all to learn the new "system." Teachers need a basic set of standards and goals they all need to reach, yes, but many teachers are already trying to teach them (and have been doing so for years). Continually changing teaching and testing standards isn't going to fix the chronic issues in our education system such as lack of student and parental initiative and accountability and lack of funding.

  172. I see the same criticisms that arose when Massachusetts implemented its MCAS system in the 90s. The basic argument is "It's too hard!" Opponents to a challenging, core curriculum in public schools are those who are unaware of, or don't believe it, as the U.S. falls steadily among other nations in quality of education.

    Recently, the very good high school that my children attended in Massachusetts dropped valedictorian and salutatorian from the graduation program, naming one student the "Class Leader". They also stopped reading out the names of students who had won prizes, and have all but buried the high honor roll. Why? Because it made the other students feel bad!!!! If we become more worried about whether our schoolchildren feel secure and valued in their educations, rather than focusing on the reach for excellence, we will have created a self-fulfilling prophesy: our high school graduates will feel good about themselves on graduation day, no matter how hard or little they worked in school. And then they'll face the cold truth of a world economy where they are in no way capable of competing. In the past, school has been the ultimate meritocracy - working hard meant more success. The immigrants American Dream is based on this.

    It's crucial to demand more of ouselves and of our children. Education is the only way that society ever really progresses.

  173. The proposed recommended standards pretty stupid and unnecessary. They will result in a higher drop out rate and cause many talented teachers to leave teaching.

    Increasing expectations will not increase the intelligence or decrease student apathy.

    One of my best friends was a high school drop out way back when. He is now a district attorney.

    My brother does not know squat about algebra or economics, but as a detective with the San Antonio Police Department, he has walls covered with commendations for catching bad guys.

    A kid needs to know how to read and write. Not how to write an essay on the metaphysics of Moby Dick.

    A kid needs to know how to balance a checkbook, count back change and calculate the interest on a loan. Not how to solve quadratic equations.

    Higher level courses should be available, but not mandatory.

    What our schools need are more vocational programs. Construction trades, for example.

    Of course the bottom line is home environment. Kids with parents who don't care about their child's education will more than likely not care either.

    For an enlightening news story related to this issue follow the link below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RrreVthWRY

  174. i went through high school in the early sixties. I was successful and I came from a lower income background. All three of my brothers and myself graduated from high school. I am the only one to go to college. I am now a Dean of Students. My brothers all had good jobs: policeman, HR for a large cooperation and the other a successful car salesman. Bring back the trade schools and let kids chose what they want to do. This idea that everyone is smart is proved wrong by all the dumb adults.
    If we were successful why did everything have to change. Change is not always a good thing.

  175. "But only 10 states reported that more than three-quarters of teachers had received any Common Core training in the most recent school year."

    This is the real problem. I talked with teachers in my kids' district and they indicated they had no training, just meetings going over the changes. I am sure it is a disaster in the making. The states did it to themselves: major overhaul with insufficient preparation.

    I have heard of some kindergarten teachers in my district who have already implemented it and they said, at the kindergarten level, it was a big change and the kids, and teachers, easily handled it. The improvement was stark. But in later grades I think switching to a significantly different style from what everyone is used to is not going to be easy.

    I like the idea of Common Core, but it should have been implemented gradually and with more preparation.

  176. The states did not do it to themselves. I don't blame anyone outside of the public schools for being confused. The Common Core and its link to teacher evaluations through testing were part of the federal program called Race to the Top. Now you may wonder, what circumstances could possibly compel 45 (at the time) states to jump on the unproven CCSS along with PARCC or SBAC assessments tied to teacher evaluations? What was it about NCLB that caused such a mass exodus? For one the feds offered money to states (NY received 700 million); failing to mention that the cost to local districts for CCSS implementation would far exceed the small amounts of RTTT $ they received. More importantly, states that opted into RTTT received a release waiver from the federal No Child Left behind legislation. This was the big draw because NCLB required that every single student had to be proficient (pass) math and ELA assessments in grades 3 to 8, by the 2014 school year - or be penalized under this very punitive law.
    The waiver was the carrot, CCSS assessments - the stick. And now we are stuck.

  177. As long as the government schools are under the thumb of the government education industrial complex and the entity being evaluated (the government school administrators/teachers) is also running the evaluation then it is doomed to fail as the persons with the most to gain/lose game the test... see Atlanta for instance.

    Parents and employers should form a group and arrange for random independent evaluations of students knowledge at the end of the students longest break period. The government schools systems should have no hand in the evaluations and the government education industrial complex advocates prohibited from participation. Then perhaps we will find out if the several trillion dollars spent each year by the Federal, State, and Local governments on the government education system is providing the parents and employers any value at all.

  178. "[Two goals are] to reduce high remediation rates at colleges and universities and [to] help students compete for jobs that demand higher levels of skills than in previous generations."

    it's a shame that these essential goals for the american economy and individual welfare are getting mired in "process". but the article does not delve enough into the political manipulation of process to obstruct.

    the policy is not, as ravich hysterically claims, to force all kids into college. the policy is that the american electorate should have uniform critical skills to conduct a democracy's business at the high school level.

    in internationally standardized tests of science, math and literacy, the united states consistently ranks below almost every other industrialized nation.

    the american culture of entitlement is hostile to science. but science will be even more important in this century than in the last. if science can't be offered at the intellectual level, it needs to be rolled out in vocational training programs.

  179. Isn't it curious that some of the same conservatives who want every child in America to begin the school day with prayer and Pledge of Allegiance are the quickest to object when those same children are required to learn certain core disciplines?

  180. The idea of a common core curriculum is fine. How it's being used is not okay. Evaluating teachers by student performance on these tests is a travesty causing teaching to the test. Classrooms are simply becoming test training centers. The poor results of the recent exams was expected and parents were warned. What's the point of making a majority of students fail? Answer: convince the public that public schools are failing to enable the privatizers to gain more control of public education dollars to enrich themselves.

  181. I'm struck -- stunned, actually -- by the statement that some parents want the Core standards eliminated because they "are too difficult." What that says about them, their valuation of education, and their own opinions about their children's abilities is appalling.

  182. Well, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Kentucky are all run by Republicans, who naturally see an educated electorate as a danger to their own interests.

    As to the parents and teachers who think it's too hard, there's a simple question: do the kids in other developed countries find it too hard? If yes, you have a point. If no, it isn't too hard, you are too lazy.

  183. Just FYI, last year Oklahoma had three high schools listed in the top 100 high schools. All of them were public schools. Go figure.

  184. There seem to be a number of people responding to this article that think American schools are failing when compared to schools in other countries. This myth started with A Nation At Risk and continues with numerous education reformers on both sides.

    When you compare apples to apples, our low-poverty kids to kids in other countries, our kids come out best in the world. Our problem is that our poverty rate is over 20%, whereas Finland and other higher ranked countries have poverty rates less than 5%. When you compare PISA scores from our schools with less than 10% poverty rate to PISA scores in other countries supposedly ranked higher than us, we're highest in the world.

    So, please stop with the "failing schools" mantra that just doesn't hold up when you look at the data. What we need to be doing in this country is addressing poverty, the number one cause of poor performance in our schools.

  185. Sir - you don't begin to know what you're talking about. The data are limited, yet still allow some conclusions. On a percentage basis, New York state has fewer high performers among white kids than Poland has among kids overall, while the percentage of kids with a college-educated parent who are highly skilled at math is lower I Illinois than the percentage of such kids among all students in Iceland, France, Estonia, and Sweden.

  186. "According to some estimates, about 40 percent of students entering college must take remedial courses before they can enroll in credit-bearing classes."

    And why? Because computer based instruction (CBI) is taking over schools. I have students that do nothing, and don't care, because they can use programs like "A+", at home, to recover 3 or 4 classes a semester. This instruction relies primarily on multiple choice questions that students work their way through using Google or Wiki. The districts don't care, because the grad rate goes up. The parents don't care, because their little angel graduates. But they hit the wall in college.

  187. I'm confused...teachers don't want to teach to the test because it robs kids of a chance to be creative and develop critical thinking skills, then CC comes along which speaks to those skills and they reject it?

    Kids will rise to the level of adults' expectations. Shame on those parents who whine that it's too hard.

    That said, I really can relate to teachers who are held to often impossible standards. Same thing is happening in the medical field...we need to show results even if the patients aren't compliant, plus they have to really, really love us so our Press/Gainey scores will be wonderful. Good luck with that, eh?

    I'd still rather be a nurse than a teacher...couldn't do their jobs. But I really wish administrators would allow them to be a lot tougher on their students.

  188. The problem here is test first; skill development after the tests and no access whatsoever to the tests which are sealed. In the meantime, loads of public excoriation, denunciation of teachers' unions, and a seismic lurch towards privatization.

    Please read Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder's Superintendent's Page at Voorheesville Central Schools re: the Common Core and what a travesty it is in its current form.

    My wife is ill and has been hospitalized dozens of times; thank you for all you do!!!

  189. When you have class sizes of 35-40 elementary school students, it doesn't matter what kind of program you are teaching.

  190. I'm willing to bet that the test scores are higher in the upper middle and upper socioeconomic class schools. For the most part these kids go to schools which are safer, have more parent participation, better classrooms, better books, and more computers. The school systems can test all they want but until there is a more level playing field, the failure rate will continue to be alarming in the lower economic schools.

  191. Unfortunately, the playing field starts on day 1, with the family the child is born into. My kids both had the same kindergarten teacher (public school) and she told me once that on the first day of school she could tell right away which kids had been read to and had a structured home life, and which kids had been brought up in a chaotic enviroment. So kids already have very different academic capabilities and needs on the first day of kindergarten. This is not the fault of the school system, but the schools are expected to address this problem and are often vilified because of it. I'm all in favor of levelling the playing field, but I don't think you can wait until the kids are in school.

  192. Minorities seem to struggle more than average with the common core. Doesn't "disparate impact" then suggest that the standard is discriminatory?

  193. Keep the Common Core but shift the "grading" to something more like the A.P. with several tiers. Maybe 0-5, with 4 equally a current "pass" on Common Core and a 2 or 3 correlating to a "pass" on existing state tests.

    That way the parents can reassure themselves that their children are still "passing", and politicians can make whatever ridiculous claims they want, but we will still have some tough objectives to shoot for, for those who actually care about excellence and achievement and not just rhetoric.

    I'm reminded of the Harvard professor a few years who, fed up with grade grubbing and complaining, told his students he was giving them all two grades: an automatic A on their transcript, and privately their "real" grade. I thought that was a brilliant solution.

  194. I am now in the second half of my seventh decade and I grieve for all those children like myself for whom school may be the most severe anguish they may ever endure. Testing and a core curriculum prepares those equipped to function in an environment that rewards those best able to adapt to school and universities and severely punishes those who for various reasons are not adapted to function in offices, stores, classrooms workplaces where the distractions and other sensory inputs overwhelm our innate inabilities to perform normal workplace tasks.
    We are in the midst of the most profound change in human environment ever to confront our species. The last thing our society needs is having all its children functioning well only in their little boxes.We need artists, musicians, poets, gardeners, dreamers and philosophers to put some type of restraint on technocrats and accountants. Not being able to function in a classroom may not be a handicap 20 years from now it may even prove to be an asset. for those who can learn early where their talents are and exploit them.

  195. I must confess that I am surprised by the people in the educational world who keep attempting to eliminate the bell-curve of learning. It seems that every year or so a new Harold Hill comes to town to sell a new way to make all children, repeat ALL, be average-and-above students, an impossible feat. Since there are more than thirteen thousand school districts in this country, would it not be easier and make more sense to search for and find those districts which have been successful at REDUCING, but not eliminating, a failure to learn, and to copy those successful methods? I am sure such successes are out there. You can lead a child to learning, but you cannot make him think. I do not believe we will ever find a way to make all children become A students.

  196. The Federal government has no business in K-12 education. The more they tinker, the more they waste and the more screwed-up an already failing system becomes.
    Do some historic research on the level of achievement expected of a high school graduate 50 years ago, before all the Federal "help".

  197. Did you read the article?

    The feds are nowhere in this equation.

  198. What is not being said is that standardized tests are a poor way of determining student mastery of material. Common standards that are not developmentally appropriate are worse than no standards at all. Other nations are seeing our failed experiment with standardization and opting out of this regressive way of teaching. Finland doesn't use tests to determine individual mastery they are only a small part of the evaluation process. We should follow Israel's lead and put the professionals back in charge of education. Let teachers teach and have testing giants like Pearson find a profit source somewhere else.
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4416883,00.html

  199. The standards are measurements, not ways to motivate, improve, and prepare kids for the world we live in. The standards (new and old) have been instrumental in the demise of music, languages, and extra curricular activities except sports. This limiting of opportunity limits the population served. A more humane, diverse, and creative approach that entails student centered learning is needed to improve education. This years long series of standards and testing has done little to enhance education and much to limit it.

  200. “The danger here is that you have two kinds of problems going on,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to close achievement gaps. “One is a Tea Party problem, which doesn’t have deep roots but does have lots of political muscle behind it, and then you’ve got a bit of antitest rebellion coming from the left. The question is what’s going to happen if they both get together. That’s the more terrifying prospect.”

    This "terror" strikes me as a little arrogant. First, don't we the people own our public education system. And don't we pay for it? Second, who is the Education Trust and others like it to have a hand in turning our public schools into testing centers driven by standards written by who knows who, and which, by the way, keep changing. I'm neither a leftist nor a tea partier, and I have felt for some time that we need to let our teachers teach our children. We had that opportunity. Why can't our children?

  201. I am a high school social studies teacher at a high achieving public school district in central New Jersey. This article rightly points out that the Common Core standards set the bar very high for our students, though in my opinion this is a good thing, at least in the long run. What this article fails to point out is that the Common Core has other worrying components, specifically in their treatment of content knowledge.

    As a history teacher, naturally I place a great deal of value on knowing....history. I believe that if we are going to raise our kids as good citizens, we have to teach them about where this nation and our global community has come from. Yet the Common Core, which has 24 social studies standards for grades 9-10 and another 24 for grades 11-12, seems to disagree. Not one of these standards deals with actual historical knowledge. In essence, I could present a series of 50 readings to my students, which deal with history or movies, philosophy or astrology, and have them write 4 papers on these readings over the course of the school year, and have them meet each one of the Common Core social studies standards. To me, this is flat out wrong.

    The Common Core is right to place an emphasis on analytical reading and writing skills, but its devaluation of historical knowledge and understanding is scary. How are we to continue as a nation devoted to the democratic process if we forgo our understanding of how we got here?

  202. "That’s the easy way to do it, but I’m not quite sure that changes kids’ lives or helps our country remain competitive economically."

    It is not a nine year old's job to "help our country remain competitive economically."

    The nine year old's job is to know more in June than he did in September.

    Some students will adapt to the raised bar. The rest will be culled. And that is really what testing is all about.

  203. You found that bird's nest on the way to school, second-grader? No we don't want to see it, or use it as a springboard into a lesson on the natural world. We have official work to do. Everyone must be on the same page. Stick that thing in your locker or stick it in the trash.

    Kati Haccock remarks: “One is a Tea Party problem, which doesn’t have deep roots but does have lots of political muscle behind it, and then you’ve got a bit of antitest rebellion coming from the left. The question is what’s going to happen if they both get together. That’s the more terrifying prospect.”

    No. The most terrifying prospect is that while continuing down the skill-and-drill path to killing off any intellectual curiosity kids come with, we can now add "Here! Learn this! It doesn't matter what interests you bring to school or what local context your teacher might want to bring to the discussion. Everyone must receive the same prescribed curriculum!"

  204. I graduated from a NYC High School in 1951. A prerequisite for graduating with an Academic diploma was the passing of Regents examinations published by the state in a variety of subject matter. I believe such testing should be standardized throughout the country. It would only serve to improve both our teaching and raise our educational standards.

  205. There is a reason that most students from the USA have to take a special exam before being allowed to study at most Universities in the UK. It's because many cannot read or write properly even after leaving college in the USA. If you set a low bar you'll get low achievement . It's seems pretty simple to most non Americans, strange how it isn't recognized in the USA. There again everyone is an 'A' student here regardless of ability so it doesn't matter.

  206. First-year teachers who return home in tears know that you can put a lot of effort into it and not be effective. Longtime teachers, however dedicated, however educated themselves, know that it’s not worth crying about, because there’s only so much they can do with other people’s children. The best teachers—and most of them by definition are average at their jobs, just as most people, just as most students—are not so because of any especial educational method they learned or are forced to learn during summer; in any case, different students may improve by different methods. It’s a poor way of putting it, but a good teacher has a certain chemistry with his students: they learn for him. These are children, remember; presenting material to them is not sufficient for them to learn it. It may sound strange to say that a schoolteacher needs charisma, but it’s true all the same.

  207. I support the concept of the Common Core. As a community college professor since 1992 I have witnessed a serious decline in the skills, work effort, and attitude towards achieving excellence among many of my students. I am appalled that 68% of my community college's first-time/full-time students (Raritan Valley Community College drawing on the 2nd and 3rd wealthiest counties in New Jersey) are required to take remedial math and/or English courses. At Kean University, which includes New Jersey's largest teacher training college, the figure is 64%.

    The absence of high standards and rigor in our elementary schools and, especially, for high school graduation is part of a systematic problem.

    The Common Core is an admirable long-term objective. I foresee massive short-term problems. A large number of our teachers currently are ill-prepared to teach a Common Core curriculum. At the same time, the pressure to judge teacher performance in part on student performance on standard tests is a major practical flashpoint. Preparing for multiple standard tests is another red flag--boring both for teachers and students, and the resultant students that I see in community college often are ill-prepared for college courses.

    Currently we are producing a large number of unexceptional students. The least worst alternative that I foresee is the gradual implementation of Common Core courses. Raising the professional Common Core capacity of our teachers is critical to this process.

  208. How politically correct to call them "unexceptional students" many of these lack basic capabilities to do appropriate work, others have never learned how to apply themselves, and some (the smarter ones) have been allowed to be lazy and assume that their efforts were good when they were just much better than the lousy ones around them. I bet there are many elementary teachers who can't do basic Algebra so how can we expect them to teach math properly. Too many of our teachers and students don't want to think and reason because both of them require effort and discrimination.

  209. Awwwwwwwww. It is too hard for the poor kids. What the heck, life is hard and the sooner they learn that the world is competative and that hard work gets it own reward, the better they will fare. As for the criticism that the state is being intrusive, it is about time someone set reasonable standards that include critical thinking and problem solving. Other countries that require rote memory are not doing so well. As an educator in medicine, I see the difference in thinking of those trained to be good critical thinkers and those who have learned medicine by rote. Give me the critical thinkers anytime!

  210. That's right - those darn 5 and 6 year olds - they have it too easy. They need to find out how inadequate they are and how they've failed to master a demanding curriculum. Do 'em some good all right!

  211. "The standards, which were written by a panel of experts convened by governors and state superintendents, focus on critical thinking and analysis rather than memorization and formulas."

    I assume no one is challenging this as a worthy objective. If so, the question becomes how do we get there instead of whether we should try to get there. We be get there if our plan is to be competitive in 2030.... http://lstrn.us/132uCAn

  212. The problem is that State Ed violated every known principle of test design and administration and it did so gleefully and arrogantly when King said they were building an airplane in mid-flight. How's that for an abdication and a self-conscious, cavalier short-shrifting of responsibility to student and teacher? Now, they have their scapegoats in Buffalo and the doors to privatization have been flung open. How many years will it take to repair the damage done to the New York State classroom? King and Tisch have to be shown the door.

  213. John King is a good example of the agenda driven "educational leaders" parading around this country, with no or next to no actual experience in public schools before coming into RUN them (see Cathie Black, who had not spent a day in public school in her life, either as a student OR as a parent, until Bloomberg anointed her to run the NYC Public Schools). John King's background, thin as it is, comes almost entirely from running charter schools. And an education commissioner at the age of 40 is questionable on its face, as the commissioner should be the ultimate teacher, not a very young administrator with little experience.

  214. I'm concerned that the tests are so expensive. Makes me think that vendors behind the PARCC assessment (e.g., Pearson, ETS, other subcontractors) are hoping to get rich on this. That's why I'm glad that Georgia dropped out of the testing consortium, although I strongly support improving education.

    I also don't like the one-size-fits-all approach. If we set the bar really high for all students, will we really improve education results or simply increase the dropout rate? Better to have a multi-track system (e.g., college bound, trade/tech school bound) with appropriate curriculum and effective testing for each.

  215. Believe me, it's not only the testing from which they hope to profit. Think of the mountains of test prep and other test-related teaching material that they will market -- with a great advertising advantage as they are the ones who make the test. By the way, other than the children who took the test and the company that made it, no one knows for sure what the test looks like. Test security, you know. Do you want to make judgements about your children on the basis of a test whose content you don't even know?

  216. A coach took over a high school football team that for decades had been run according to a philosophy that never had players play actual football. They had drilled endlessly on unrelated skills and as a result never understood the game and never experienced the level of sustained effort -- and the many failures -- that are part of becoming good. The new coach understood the game and had a vision for how to transform the team. The first step was to introduce them to real football and to score players on a real scorecard. The initial result? Most players sucked at real football. It was a wakeup message to the team and the community. The community's reaction? It cheered that they finally had a coach who might lead the team to new levels of success.

    Wouldn't it be great if parents thought of mathematics and English with the same philosophy they hold for football?