Are the new national academic standards rotten to the (Common) Core?

apple (Medium)Here is another compelling and passionate piece from Pelham City, Ga., school chief Jim Arnold. (You can search the blog for other Arnold essays.)

Arnold takes on the new Common Core Standards, in which former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue played a pivotal leadership role through the National Governor’s Association.

By Jim Arnold

I must state from the outset that I am innately suspicious of the underlying motives or educational benefits of any initiative – Common Core included — supported by the Georgia governor who instituted austerity cuts in 2003, led Georgia to be one of the only states to use teacher furloughs to balance the state budget and consistently under funded public education in order to promote quality fishing.

Common Core is a standardized national curriculum. Why is this problematic? From an historical context, a centralized school curriculum serves the goals of totalitarian states. Jefferson warned us about that.

There are additional issues:

1) There are few interdisciplinary connections between subjects. Research for many years has shown the positive effects of interdisciplinary connections on student learning and achievement;

2) Citizenship, personal development and the promotion of democratic values is ignored.

The rationale given by the GADOE behind this mandated implementation of Common Core was threefold:

1) An answer to the problem of student mobility;

2) An opportunity to create an economy of scale, and;

3) An opportunity to compare “apples to apples” when ranking schools, systems or students between and among states.

Student achievement seems to be missing from that particular continuum. Adopting a curriculum to solve societal mobility issues is like measuring flour with a yardstick. There are easier solutions. “Economies of scale” mean little when our Legislature continues to under fund public education. When you can’t afford textbooks the opportunity to not buy new ones at a cheaper price is hardly an advantage. It is rather troubling to note the number of educational “reforms” that ignore educational research, as if invoking the magic word “reform” is enough to allow any imposition however implausible.

With adoption of the Common Core standards, you can rest assured that Common Core standardized testing is not far behind. How can we expect a single, nationwide standardized “pick-a-bubble” machine scored test to effectively measure what is taught in practically every school system in the United States? The documented testing issues we already see with state assessments will increase exponentially.

The June state Board of Education minutes listed over $25 million in state contracts for testing and test development for 2013. Whether these investments are educationally justifiable or wise never seems to be the question.

Standardized tests were designed, once upon a time, to serve as prescriptive tools to help teachers help students. Presently, they serve as autopsy reports that include first time test taker results whose primary purpose is not to assist teachers in improving student achievement but to rank schools and systems. Teachers cannot effectively use data provided at the end of the school year to assist students that leave their class two weeks later. If we were serious about using these tests to measure achievement – and there’s a mighty big “if” about whether they do – we would give them at the beginning of the year to provide substantive data for teachers.

In a time when parents –and, as an extension – the public – are demanding more and more personalization for their child’s education, Federal and state educational agencies continue to insist upon more and more standardization – falling once again into the fallacy of “what’s good for one child is good for all children.”

The Common Core standards will ultimately serve not to improve student achievement but to increase the profits of standardized testing companies. The effects of poverty, family and socio-economic factors on education will continue to be largely ignored in our infatuation with the misguided belief that student achievement will improve through intensified measurement.

The “teach the test” and “test prep” and “testing pep rallies” environment will grow stronger through the implementation of annual growth measurements (annual growth = 100% – 2011 proficiency rate of first time test takers divided by six) for schools and flawed teacher evaluation models tying teacher ratings and salary to student scores that together will serve as almost insurmountable incentives for teachers to teach to the test, by the test and for the test.

The United States has, since the 1950’s, been rated in the bottom 25% of every educational rating system imaginable. The fact that our country has set the economic standard for the rest of the world, that our creativity, achievements and scientific progress far overshadow the nearest competitors would seem to lead us toward the beginnings of a discussion about the efficacy and reliability of the ranking systems we seem to trust as infallible measurements.

Sooner or later, even legislators must see it’s not about race, it’s about poverty; it’s not about a test score, it’s about student achievement; it’s not about a standardized curriculum, it’s about good teaching; it’s not about the business model, it’s about personalization; it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation. Until that time, we will continue to get the kind of Legislature and public education system we vote for.

Relevant content and applications of knowledge through critical thinking, problem solving, modeling and higher order thinking skills should be the focus and goal of our educational process. Education is not supposed to be about determining or defining a specific amount or trove of material that must be learned in order to advance to the next level, but a matter of cultivating and growing inquisitiveness and curiosity in students that eventually grow into life skills. None of these skills or processes can be measured with any degree of reliability, accuracy or validity by a multiple choice machine scored test.

My suggestion is that we trust teachers enough to give them the freedom to do what they do best – teach children on a personal and individualized level. Micromanagement is an egregious sin and an almost irresistible temptation for state and Federal officials.

I predict a period of extensive frustration on the part of teachers before they get to the point they must eventually reach to decide that if anything is to be done to effectively implement the Common Core curriculum they must do it themselves at the local school level. Teachers, in this case as in so many others, are not the problem, they are our unrecognized salvation. Just as with Georgia Performance Standards, the efforts of teachers will eventually – in spite of everything politicians can do to make them look like scapegoats for what are truly societal issues – be the salvation of Common Core implementation in spite of state and Federal mandates and implementation schemes and not because of them – until, of course, the next big reform comes around the corner.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

107 comments Add your comment

Preaching to the choir

July 1st, 2012
9:36 am

He’s absolutely correct and in language even legislators can understand. Amen, Brother!

bootney farnsworth

July 1st, 2012
9:56 am

face it – we’re screwed.

Sissy

July 1st, 2012
10:14 am

I want to work in his district!

Shar

July 1st, 2012
10:20 am

I agree with some of what Mr. Arnold writes, particularly his comment that student achievement is ignored in the goals of the Common Core and his railing about test scores, I do believe that there are some benefits to the approach.

The current curriculum fails too many students, and is far too vulnerable to the machinations of agenda politics. The endless subterfuges by interest groups of all stripes, the political bandstanding of politicians eager to curry favor with whatever idealogues are locally prevalent, focus on getting their point of view incorporated into teaching materials, to perpetuate and indoctrinate their beliefs. That is propaganda, not education, and I am hopeful that the state’s role in facilitating this politicization of curriculum can be at least hemmed in by agreement to a national set of academic mandates.

I believe, too, that is why “Citizenship, personal development and the promotion of democratic values is [are/] ignored.” Those are typically areas that are most prone to idealogical interference, and are best learned through modeling, not curriculum.

I agree, too, that interdisciplinary associations between subject areas make learning (and surely teaching) more robust, but wouldn’t this be a function of teaching practice rather than curriculum?

Yes, concerns about how a Core Curriculum can be twisted to a profit center for the testing industry and a set of cement shoes for teachers are valid. But I like the idea of focusing curriculum on areas of agreed-upon importance and protecting the classroom from intellectual predators, right and left.

GwinnettParentz

July 1st, 2012
10:23 am

Apparently a fellow Democrat partisan of Maureen’s, today’s guest columnist alerts us in his very first paragraph that we’re about to read a highly jaundiced view of the Common Core curriculum initiative.

And if liberals howl about something—there MUST be merit in it, right?

Really?

July 1st, 2012
10:31 am

Creative teachers? Oxymoron. Give em the script.

Good Mother

July 1st, 2012
10:35 am

Hogwash.
Common core standards enable us to compare schools from state to state. Arnold doesn’t want us to do that because it would show the rest of the country just how bad GA schools are performing.
Shining a bright light on any problem is the first step to fixing the problem.
We should not hide our poor-performing schools by creating our own curriculum and judging ourselves by our own standards. That’s like the fox guarding the hen house.
GA kids will compete for GA colleges and GA jobs with kids from other states. It is waaaaay past time for a standardized curriculum and a standardized test nation-wide. We tax-payers and parents NEED to know how our kids are REALLY performing so that we can make real, informed decisions about where to live and send our children to school.

Teacher2

July 1st, 2012
10:37 am

The Common Core standards will ultimately serve not to improve student achievement but to increase the profits of standardized testing companies. The effects of poverty, family and socio-economic factors on education will continue to be largely ignored in our infatuation with the misguided belief that student achievement will improve through intensified measurement.”

This is so true! The number of standardized testing businesses will soon become one of the largest business industries considering the majority of the country now has Common Core standards. The new potential testing market is huge: the number of states with Common Core, the number of school systems within each of those states and the number of schools in each of those school systems. It is all about making a profit using the disguise of “reform”! Every reformer has a motive, from selling books, testing materials, curriculum, textbooks, workbooks, seminars, webinars, software and for-profit charter schools models. The money being made often with the help of governors, legislators and other policy makers at the determent of children is unconscionable.

Secondly, I have seen firsthand in my career as a teacher for nearly 20 years in Title 1 schools the effects of poverty, family and socio-economic factors and its impact on education. Everyone outside of the classroom wants to ignore the dynamics of these factors. “The misguided belief that student achievement will improve through intensified measurement” should be the new motto of public school teachers.

@Jim Arnold, thank you for your words of wisdom!

GratefulTeacher

July 1st, 2012
10:54 am

“I must state from the outset that I am innately suspicious of the underlying motives or educational benefits of any initiative – Common Core included — supported by the Georgia governor who instituted austerity cuts in 2003, led Georgia to be one of the only states to use teacher furloughs to balance the state budget and consistently under funded public education in order to promote quality fishing.”

As soon as I read this statement, I knew Mr. Arnold’s essay would be biased. I do not agree with many of the statements in this essay, but then again, I am looking forward to the new CCGPS initiatives with excitement. I just hope we are given the time and support to fully implement the standards and measure the results.

Maureen Downey

July 1st, 2012
11:05 am

@Gwinnett, If you follow the national view of Common Core, you will find howling from all sides. Not sure how you see this as a liberal/conservative divide. I suggest you look up Texas and the Common Core or Alaska. Some of the first states to embrace it, along with Georgia where Gov. Perdue chaired the national governors’ committee to create the standards, were Northeastern states
Maureen

Jerry Eads

July 1st, 2012
11:10 am

A nicely written piece, Jim. Your argument that the CC will actually be WORSE than what we have is a fascinating prospect. Several people close to the fire have told me that PAARC (the multi-state “testing club” purportedly developing CC tests) appears interested in telling teachers HOW to teach even more than telling them what to teach, which would make it yet another attempt to make learning “teacher-proof” rather than finding ways to help teachers be better teachers.

If you are correct – and I think the evidence (if not others’ rhetoric) suggests you may well be – America as a society will continue its downward slide as we seem to be consciously, willingly and deliberately working to cripple its educational system.

justjanny

July 1st, 2012
11:27 am

@Pelham City School Chief, Jim Arnold well-written and thoughtful article…don’t necessarily agree with every point, but you do give the readers some intelligent points to ponder rather than just spew the private school over public school rantings.

Kathleen Carpenter

July 1st, 2012
11:39 am

There are many inaccuracies in this piece and an incomplete understanding of the situation. The new Common Core language arts standards at the high school level allow us to break free of the outdated, Eurocentric canon of high school English courses that (a) don’t interest most kids and (b) completely misses the boat to prepare children for the information-based workplace of tomorrow.

In addition, the state of Georgia is part of the PARCC consortium for implementing new technology-enhanced assessments that will require all students to demonstrate higher-order thinking. As a mother of three elementary-aged children I cannot wait for them to participate in such a vibrant learning experience. I think it will wake a lot of our school leaders and teachers up!

Also, the Common Core consists of standards, not curricula. There is a difference and the author would be wise to engage his teachers in understanding this difference and in taking advantage of the rich opportunity we have in being a part of this effort being taken on in dozens of states. Sure, it will not be without bumps in the road, but it can be done in a very positive, energetic way that benefits children and teachers. What a wonderfully exciting time!

crankee-yankee

July 1st, 2012
11:47 am

Really?
July 1st, 2012
10:31 am

So whom would you have write the script?

bootney farnsworth

July 1st, 2012
11:56 am

@ Jerry,
waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when I was in HS (before electricity, indoor plumbing, and cable TV) I had a social studies teacher who maintained the primary goal of public education was to foster race relations – get us all to get along.

while I never bot that completely, it does seem the American political class has always been more interested in a on the surface civil community than an educated one

bootney farnsworth

July 1st, 2012
11:58 am

anyone who thinks Ga kids are just competing -and losing the competition- with their American counterparts is sadly and grossly mistaken.

d

July 1st, 2012
12:01 pm

I am just waiting for all the “aligned to common core” textbooks to come out. That’s not what common core is about. I will say I am worried about how the CC is being meshed with the current GPS in other subjects. Improving literacy is good, but it has to be done in a way to preserve the content and integrity of the other subjects which includes labs in science (not just reading about science), discussing and analyzing in social studies, and reading literature, not just technical reading in English.

zeke

July 1st, 2012
12:12 pm

In the end, the common agenda since the 50’s and 60’s is to make everyone come out with the same results! We do not allow the best and brightest to achieve for fear they might do better than others! We do not challenge them for fear others cannot keep up! I don’t gives a rat’s rear whether those students are white, black, yellow, brow or polka dotted! WE MUST CHANGE THE SYSTEM TO CHALLENGE AND REWARD ALL STUDENTS BASED ON THEIR ABILITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS, NOT HOLD BACK THE BRIGHTEST BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT LOSE THEIR SELF ESTEEM! PRIME EXAMPLE: when my children were in elementary and middle school in the 70’s and 80’s, our small county school system did not have the financial resources to offer all the courses, advanced courses or facilities for labs and such as the city schools. So they started a gifted and talented program to challenge those students who were capable of doing more than the system could offer. These 4th, 5th and 6th grade students did special projects, research, lab work, etc. It proved so popular that in the middle schools they changes to group those children of like abilities in the same classes. Those who were obviously on a more advanced level were grouped together and so on! THE KIDS, ALL KIDS IN ALL GROUPS WERE HELPED, DID GREAT WORK. The teachers were thrilled. Those teaching the, let us call it the A group, were so thrilled that they could explain something one time to this group and not have to do it again, letting them teach and improve. Same to the other groups B, C etc.! Because the children in these groups were all at about the same educational level all of the groups had better results. The groupings were done by standardized test scores, grade in the subjects, teachers recommendation. There were white, black and others in all sections. As best as could be, there was no discrimination based on race. But then, some parents were “offended” that their child was not in the A group and threatened to sue the county school system. Rather than spend the money against a lawsuit, the county decided to DROP THE PROGRAM and use the money for the schools! What a waste! Education should be about allowing the children to advance as they are capable, not about some socialist version of “everyone equal”! Sure, everyone should be treated the same in the eyes of law and government, but, try as they may, socialist liberals cannot make everyone equal in intelligence, personal drive, physical abilities or income!

Proud Teacher

July 1st, 2012
12:16 pm

Yes, Dr. Arnold does have valid points. Yes, Dr. Arnold does seriously address the anxst of most public school teachers who see another educational trend that will create more problems for the teachers and less learning-for-life education for the students. But why do we teachers continue to bend as a willow trees leans in the winds to every mandate issued by those who are not in the know, those who have great “data” and research results to design such intricate, complicated, illusory standards?

We teachers in the classroom have faces with personal history in front of us. Why are we highly educated and personally committed teachers not allowed to address that issue first? There is a long series of hoops that all teachers must jump through in order to keep our jobs, and sadly, the last hoop of importance is the student, for it’s paramount that the school system have all of the right percentages and all of the correct boxes checked in order to stay out of trouble with those who have no investment in our classrooms, or else we will be ousted and replaced with someone who is more committed to the numbers than the students.

What Dr. Arnold writes here is only part of the critical situation that real teachers in the classroom face.

Whining? Maybe a few, but definitely not the majority. In too many cases, once again there will be less real learning while the teachers are trying their best to have the students memorize and respond by rote to more standardized tests.

Students are not robots; they are tomorrow’s adults. Why must we be forced to treat them as such?

crankee-yankee

July 1st, 2012
12:25 pm

“Relevant content and applications of knowledge through critical thinking, problem solving, modeling and higher order thinking skills should be the focus and goal of our educational process.”

This cuts to the core of the problem with “reform” movements. The “reforms” that permeate education are upside-down. Where research tells us we should focus on big-picture ideas, as stated in Mr. Arnold’s piece, and relevant content will follow, “reforms” are merely content driven and never allude to the big-picture as if it either is beyond the authors’ comprehension or they think it is beyond ours.

The truth is, students are a not all one size, some need to master content before they can apply it to big-picture ideas but just as many need to see the big-picture idea first so they can make sense of the content. This is why teaching has always been referred to as an art, not a science. No prescription can be applied to all children yet that is what “reformers” push. Let the education professionals (I’m talking teachers here, not administrators) do their job.

On the one hand, the message we get is that we should (rightly) tailor education to the individual (do SPED IEP’s ring a bell?) yet the prescriptive “reforms” do just the opposite.

Will we learn from the mistakes of the past? Texas was the canary in the coal mine for NCLB but no one listened. Now we have early adopters of Common Core raising sticky questions, will that be ignored as well?

Brandy

July 1st, 2012
12:32 pm

Amen, brother! Of course, saying something along these lines is likely to get you labeled a “union shill”. As an educator, I actually believe there should be a national curriculum–but(!) the Common Core isn’t the best of the multitude of options, especially when you look at Georgia’s proposed curricular implementation which is poorly written and fails to recognize how behind some students are, how special others are, and, even, how advanced some are. One size has never fit all and it sure won’t this time around. >>sarcasm warning<>sarcasm warning<<

Hmmmmm.....

July 1st, 2012
12:33 pm

…..” led Georgia to be one of the only states to use teacher furloughs to balance the state budget and consistently under funded public education in order to promote quality fishing.”

I stopped reading after the above sentence. How could a school system like the APS be “underfunded” when their per student spending is in excess of $14K per student????

Proud Teacher

July 1st, 2012
12:45 pm

As for more erroneous behavior in the higher echelons . . . . follow the money . . . . $14K per students? Yes, I think this requires line-item investigation.

Maureen Downey

July 1st, 2012
1:10 pm

@Hmmmm, Because the local property taxpayers pick up the slack from state cuts — much of the total cost of funding students falls on local taxpayers in many metro counties that want more than the basic education that the state funds. Many, many systems are now asking more and more of local taxpayers to compensate for deep state cuts.
Maureen

Ronin

July 1st, 2012
1:13 pm

It’s a business, run to manage and measure various achievements (or lack thereof) and then sell more “advanced” education solutions to school systems that have the funds to afford it.

Maureen Downey

July 1st, 2012
1:21 pm

@Proud, I will note that I have looked at APS spending in the past and found that the spending on the average/regular/ordinary student with no special services is not out of line with the rest of the small to moderate systems. That per pupil total includes kids receiving extraordinary services so it is important to break it down.
Maureen

Proud Teacher

July 1st, 2012
1:23 pm

Ah, so it is not 14K per child . . . really. . . Yes, special needs requires special services.

BehindEnemyLines

July 1st, 2012
1:23 pm

Hopefully this self-serving crybaby had some decent cheese to go with his lousy whine.

re: it’s not about a test score, it’s about student achievement — If the items being tested are the appropriate ones, that score IS student achievement

re: it’s not about a standardized curriculum, it’s about good teaching — with an acceptable curriculum

re: it’s not about the business model, it’s about personalization — LOL, _everything_ is about the business model you clueless waste of bandwidth & oxygen. So sayeth those of us of have grown tired of footing the bill for the hogs at the public trough. And there are few areas that have been more sorely in need in correction than the good money after bad thrown down the dry hole of overpriced daycare known as public (re)education.

re: it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation — perhaps the best indicator of just how clueless the author is. With finite resources and an excess of bodies, EVERYTHING involves competition.

Progressive Humanist

July 1st, 2012
1:24 pm

Actually, multiple choice items can measure higher order thinking, problem solving, and critical thinking. They’re known as interpretive questions. A paragraph, chart, graph, picture, excerpt, problem, etc. is presented to the test taker, who must then extract the relevant information and use it to come up with a solution to the question. More and more standardized tests are using this format. It allows the test to go far beyond assessing memorized knowledge and instead assesses students’ skills and how they process information. And, contrary to what Mr. Arnold suggests, this can be done while retaining content validity and with a high degree of reliability.

To his larger point, it would indeed be a great idea to be able to test students using more real-world oriented assessments, such as performance assessments that require problem solving and critical thinking. However, this is where real problems with validity and reliability surface. Performance assessments are notoriously subjective, not to mention they are time consuming to complete and score. It’s difficult to see how they could be realistically incorporated into large scale high stakes assessment while maintaining accurate, objective scoring.

Psychometricians are consistently trying to improve measurement instruments to include new and more accurate ways of assessing learning and skills. But at this point none of the naysayers have offered a suggestion for these assessments that will supposedly test “relevant” “real-world” content and application of knowledge.

Testing is here to stay so griping about it isn’t going to do a whole lot of good. Instead, offer some solutions for assessing students on content, skills, and knowledge that you think is more important than what we’re assessing now, and come up with a way to measure it reliably. I’m all for reforming assessment and so is everyone else I’ve ever known in the field of assessment. We’re open to suggestions. Just make sure they are superior to our current measurement techniques.

gone2

July 1st, 2012
1:27 pm

I stopped reading after the above sentence. How could a school system like the APS be “underfunded” when their per student spending is in excess of $14K per student????

Why, exactly Hmmmmmmm. Seems it’s the age-old and biggest problem in education. It’s NOT that money’s not there, it’s that it is siphoned off BEFORE IT REACHES the STUDENTS and the instructors teaching those students! Look at ANY central office in this state. There’s plenty of money there! It’s just poorly spent. The department heads all have assistants- when it’s TEACHERS who really DESERVE the clerical help. There’s ALWAYS room for YET ANOTHER position if it needs to be found for an underperforming administrator. Teachers and students never seem to benefit, but the FAT CATS aren’t bothered by furloughs and such. Whatever happened to MANDATORY SUBSTITUTE requirements for central office administrators?? Gave them a little reminder of what it’s actually like in the classroom: morning duty, bus duty, 15 minute lunches (on- campus, not at the country club), lesson planning, grading, meetings and more meetings, and ,oh yes, the actual face-to- face with the real clients, the students. Too many have lost perspective of how much time and energy,not to mention money, it actually takes to individualize instruction. ONE SIZE does NOT, and NEVER WILL, fit all. Glad I’m gone. Never could stick to those scripted programs. Might as well have robots as instructors- or just turn on a TV or computer.

crankee-yankee

July 1st, 2012
1:28 pm

Hmmmmm…..
July 1st, 2012
12:33 pm

Don’t cherry pick. APS is an abomination, agreed, but do not label the entire state based on one egregious stand-out.
Overall, education in this state is underfunded starting, most recently, with the end of the Barnes administration. All the advances Miller effected have been wiped out to the tune of $4 billion.

Brandy

July 1st, 2012
1:33 pm

Whoops! Part of that got eaten…My comment should end with “(sarcasm warning) Well, at least the curricula publishers and test makers can make more money. Who cares about the children, anyway? (sarcasm warning)”.

redweather

July 1st, 2012
1:34 pm

@Kathleen Carpenter, you write “The new Common Core language arts standards at the high school level allow us to break free of the outdated, Eurocentric canon of high school English courses that (a) don’t interest most kids and (b) completely misses the boat to prepare children for the information-based workplace of tomorrow.”

And so it’s the “outdated, Eurocentric Canon” that is holding our kids back? Please explain. This ought to be pretty good.

GwinnettParentz

July 1st, 2012
1:41 pm

The Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts recently released a legal analysis of the standards push behind Common Core and found that the Department of Education’s involvement in it runs afoul of three federal laws prohibiting the federal government from getting involved in curriculum: The federal government has (1) incentivized states to adopt the standards through $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants, (2) conditioned access to No Child Left Behind waivers on standards adoption, and (3) paid for the corresponding national assessments.

Pioneer also found that, cumulatively, implementation of the standards will cost states some $16 billion.

So maybe this complaint has merits?

Progressive Humanist

July 1st, 2012
1:43 pm

And I would also ask this: What are all these important topics and projects that teachers are now having to bypass in order to prepare students to do well on high stakes tests? If you’re covering the curriculum you’re supposed to and sticking to your standards and objectives, everything you do should be preparing students to do well on those assessments. Good teaching IS good test preparation. If the test is measuring the academic content and skills that educators have agreed are what students need to master (which I concede is sometimes debatable) and your students are learning that academic content and those skills, then how is the test hindering your ability to teach?

crankee-yankee

July 1st, 2012
1:48 pm

BehindEnemyLines
July 1st, 2012
1:23 pm

Talk about clueless wastes of oxygen & bandwidth…do you have anything positive to add to the discussion besides tired opinions?

“re: it’s not about a test score, it’s about student achievement — If the items being tested are the appropriate ones, that score IS student achievement”

This is one basis of the missive, the tests have not been proven to measure achievement, only rote memorization.

“re: it’s not about a standardized curriculum, it’s about good teaching — with an acceptable curriculum”

Basis #2 questions the acceptability of the CC curriculum

“re: it’s not about the business model, it’s about personalization — LOL, _everything_ is about the business model you clueless waste of bandwidth & oxygen. So sayeth those of us of have grown tired of footing the bill for the hogs at the public trough. And there are few areas that have been more sorely in need in correction than the good money after bad thrown down the dry hole of overpriced daycare known as public (re)education.”

How wrong you are…we are talking about people, not widgets

“re: it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation — perhaps the best indicator of just how clueless the author is. With finite resources and an excess of bodies, EVERYTHING involves competition”

Involves, yes…but having competition be the end-all is just myopic, just look at the Sandusky case.

Good Mother

July 1st, 2012
1:48 pm

Progressive Humanist is EXACTLY RIGHT.
I WANT teachers to teach to the test because they test measures what the kids need to know — mostly, reading comprehension. The kids read a paraprah or more and answer questions about the information in the paragraph.
The answers are right there in black or white. All the kids have to do is read and understand what they read.
However, if the children can only memorize “sight words” they are not really reading…they are just memorizing.
My kids were constantly taught IN SCHOOL by their teachers to memorize sight words.
That IS NOT reading.
I had to teach my kids to read the right way — simple phonics. Know the sounds the letters make and sound out the word.
Half of these standardized tests are simply knowing how to read.
If teachers are teaching kids to learn to read, they will pass the test.

Courtney

July 1st, 2012
1:56 pm

I enjoyed the article. Thank you

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

July 1st, 2012
1:57 pm

@Behind Enemy Lines

crybaby

lousy whine

score IS student achievement

everything_ is about the business model

clueless waste of bandwidth & oxygen.

hogs at the public trough

good money after bad

overpriced daycare

EVERYTHING involves competition

Yep. Looks like you got all the good ole “talking points” in there – Congratulations! Also shows you really have no clue yourself. But then, what do I know, right? I’ve just had my “boots on the ground” actually DOING the job you find do easy to dismiss. For over 20 years, I have actually been working in a classroom, serving on district committees and helping develop curriculum, and oh, you know, that other thing, TEACHING.

But I don’t know anything. Others like me don’t know anything. Twenty years involved in the day to day hands-on operations of education gives us NO insight into to our job, what works and what does not. No. We need to listen to people like you. Anonymous posters on a blog who have probably not been a classroom since they graduated (if they graduated.)

catlady

July 1st, 2012
1:58 pm

Mr. Arnold’s first paragraph is so great, I almost swallowed a tomato reading it! Especially the “consistently under-funded public education in order to promote quality fishing.” Priceless! Of course, we know that the money “saved” went to other “worthy projects” as well–roads, Oaky Woods, etc.

I also fear the “Common Core,” especially after the indignities and jack-boot behavior caused by Reading First and the scripted texts. When I click the dog-clicker, say, “Heil, Hitler!” Millions of dollars given to the FOB who provided the materials, and now they are in for another round of millions (while the kids languish) laughing to the bank.

How many more “saviors” are we going to adopt? We haven’t even finished “unpacking” the GPS!
The government of Georgia acts like the 50s housewife–give them NEW! and IMPROVED! and they will buy it every time! Throw in a few Reforms! and Research Based! and they become near-orgasmic!

Mr. Arnold, I know there is no hope for you to work within the state’s deparment of education, since you actually think, but we will be looking for a superintendent up here soon…had you thought about living in the mountains?

northatlantateacher

July 1st, 2012
2:06 pm

@GM: For someone as interested in education as you are, I’m amazed that you want a teacher to teacher your kids to the lowest common denominator. Progressive Humanist is right – it is possible to test higher order thinking skills on a MC assessment. It is not what is actually tested on our state tests. The EOCT for my subject area is insanely easy. If I taught to the test, I’d be teaching capitalization rules, paragraph main ideas, spelling and basic identification of literary elements – in high school. That’s the EOCT my kids take.
I’m not familiar with elementary school curriculum, so I can’t speak for sight words vs. phonics. I can tell you without a doubt that if teachers only taught to the test students would learn very little.

northatlantateacher

July 1st, 2012
2:07 pm

Good Mother

July 1st, 2012
2:11 pm

Lesseee, let me add this up — CRCT unfair, racist test, just a money-maker for test makers, Common Core — unfair, racist test, just a money-maker for test makers…
No matter what measurement is put before the teachers on this blog, an overwhelming majority of them will complain that “it ain’t fair, just ain’t fair). The truth is most of the teachers on this blog do not want any measuremenht of any kind because they will know it will highlight how pitiful a Georgia public education is.
No matter what test, what measurement is used to evaluate, most teachers on this blog will throw up their arms in disgust.
GA public schools are an embarrasment to Georgia
The cat is out of the bag. The writing is on the wall. It’s been written about, discussed and documented. GA public schools are simply inadequate. No amount of complaining about common core standards is going to hide the poor performance of GA schools.

crankee-yankee

July 1st, 2012
2:23 pm

@cat

Funny you should mention Hitler, he implemented a national curriculum where every child was “learning” the same thing at the same time on the same day across the nation. Is this where we are headed? If Hitler thought is was a good idea, should we not reject it…

jd

July 1st, 2012
2:36 pm

Has anyone looked at the score since all these “businessmen”, most of whom have never managed more then 5 employees, have offered their “wise” advice to run our schools? Seems like it’s time to stop digging that hole.

catlady

July 1st, 2012
2:56 pm

crankee–yes, I am very afraid so.

GM: In your first post, you said,”it would show the rest of the country just how bad GA schools are performing.” I would argue that, no, it would show how bad Georgia STUDENTS are performing. There is a difference.

In your second post, you state,”The answers are right there in black or white. All the kids have to do is read and understand what they read.” Not exactly true. Most reading, past third grade, requires children to make connections between what they read and what they already know. Sometimes they have to make predictions. Second point on that is, understanding IS what reading is. Saying words phonetically, or by sight words, or by context clues, is NOT reading. It is calling words. REAL READING is interactive: You decode the word (by whatever method) you make connections to what you already know, and you add to that set of knowledge. If you mis-decode a word, REAL READING will send you to backup and re-read, as it won’t make sense if you UNDERSTAND. This was a great FAIL for Reading First.

Third, you say, “My kids were constantly taught IN SCHOOL by their teachers to memorize sight words. That IS NOT reading. No, but there are some words that are best recognized by sight. These are words in the 20% of English that are NOT phonetic. Or they are little words you would not want your child to sound out every time they saw them. Think of this: Your child has to sound out The boy got the ball. Sight words help your child move to automaticity–recognizing and calling words smoothly, which facilitates READ READING.

I have three children. The two oldest were phonetic readers. They were both reading way before they were 4. They had sight words, of course, but “big words” they could sound out. They both scored near-perfect on any reading achievement test you can name. My younger daughter, taught by me the same way, was much more dependent on sight words and context clues. She still became an excellent reader–has a master’s in astrophysics now.

Teachers use all these methods to help students learn to READ–that almost mystical interaction between a person and text that leads to COMPREHENSION. BTW, I have taught about 1000 children to read, and now I spend my days helping poor readers–kids 2-3 years behind–with their reading. I use every tool in the kit to do so.

Finally, your last submission: When I was in school, if I didn’t do well at something (defined by my mother as less than 95%), it was because of ME. My parents never, ever, blamed the teacher for my (apparent) inadequacies. They knew that the material was presented, and that perhaps I needed to spend more time on it in order to master it. But the fault for a low test score, if I got one, was MINE. Were the teachers so great back then? No, by today’s standards they were much less skilled. So what is the difference? The stool has three legs, not just one.

My two cents worth

July 1st, 2012
3:15 pm

The problem with all standardized testing is that everyone ends up teaching to the test because you are going to be compared to others. There are students in high school who can’t name the continents because NCLB did not measure science or social studies, so that got left out. My friend is a wonderful teacher but common core stifles her and actually prohibits her from raising the bar for her students (and 1/3 of her 30 fourth graders are EIP).

southside teacher

July 1st, 2012
3:29 pm

d
I’m sorry to report that the ‘aligned to Common Core’ textbooks are here and I will put them in my students’ hands in August.
Time and again, national standards have delivered disappointing outcomes in other countries. Why would it be different here? Don’t point to Europe; the UK is having their own debate on the value of GCSEs, A-levels and Standard Assessment Tests. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/jun/10/sats.schools
Finland doesn’t have a set curriculum, doesn’t use standardized testing (they think we’re nuts!), and regularly kicks butt on international comparisons.
Meanwhile, Sidwell Friends and other top tier private schools here only use these ‘instruments’ as a tool for the individual student, not as a weapon against anyone.

[...] Here is another compelling and passionate piece from Pelham City, Ga., school chief Jim Arnold.  [...]

[...] Here is another compelling and passionate piece from Pelham City, Ga., school chief Jim Arnold.  [...]