The Trouble with the Common Core

Via Rethinking Schools

It isn’t easy to find common ground on the Common Core. Already hailed as the “next big thing” in education reform, the Common Core State Standards are being rushed into classrooms in nearly every district in the country. Although these “world-class” standards raise substantive questions about curriculum choices and instructional practices, such educational concerns are likely to prove less significant than the role the Common Core is playing in the larger landscape of our polarized education reform politics.

We know there have been many positive claims made for the Common Core:

  • That it represents a tighter set of smarter standards focused on developing critical learning skills instead of mastering fragmented bits of knowledge.
  • That it requires more progressive, student-centered teaching with strong elements of collaborative and reflective learning.
  • That it equalizes the playing field by raising expectations for all children, especially those suffering the worst effects of the “drill and kill” test prep norms of the recent past.

We also know that many creative, heroic teachers are seeking ways to use this latest reform wave to serve their students well. Especially in the current interim between the roll-out of the standards and the arrival of the tests, some teachers have embraced the Common Core as an alternative to the scripted commercial formulas of recent experience, and are trying to use the space opened up by the Common Core transition to do positive things in their classrooms.

We’d like to believe these claims and efforts can trump the more political uses of the Common Core project. But we can’t.

For starters, the misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They’re national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)

Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Of the 135 members on the official Common Core review panels convened by Achieve Inc., the consulting firm that has directed the Common Core project for the NGA, few were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

The standards are tied to assessments that are still in development and that must be given on computers many schools don’t have. So far, there is no research or experience to justify the extravagant claims being made for the ability of these standards to ensure that every child will graduate from high school “college and career ready.” By all accounts, the new Common Core tests will be considerably harder than current state assessments, leading to sharp drops in scores and proficiency rates.

We have seen this show before. The entire country just finished a decade-long experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to adopt “rigorous” curriculum standards and test students annually to gauge progress towards reaching them. Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. (Before NCLB, only 19 states tested all kids every year, after NCLB all 50 did.)

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Education News for 03-25-2013

State Education News

  • Before high school, students hearing value of college planning (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Several seventh- and eighth-graders at Ridgeview Junior High School in Pickerington already have started to map out their college plans, which include the University of Florida…Read more...

  • Stomachs growled, so lunch-food limits eased (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Some schools are beefing up cafeteria meals after the federal government ended limits on the amount of meat and grain on their menus…Read more...

  • Schools scrambling to ready for online testing (Lima News)
  • Like others in the region, Delphos schools will be ready when state online testing begins in the 2014-15 school year, but also like many, getting there won’t be easy…Read more...

  • How we got to 612 schools (Newark Advocate)
  • Public education in Ohio dates back to before it was a state, with the Northwest Ordinance putting an emphasis on creating schools to educate children…Read more...

  • Voucher plan concerns some area officials (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • School officials from Trumbull, Mahoning and Ashtabula counties on Friday met with state lawmakers about Gov. John Kasich's school funding plan and its potential impact on local districts…Read more...

  • Frustrated state lawmakers discuss school funding with Valley superintendents (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Area school superintendents complained in a meeting with state legislators Friday about the proposed cutback of $600 million in public-school funding and the money they have to pay to charter schools…Read more...

Local Education News

  • School bus fleet ages and grows more costly to maintain as state shifts burden to local taxpayers (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • That school bus you see hauling kids down the road might look nice and yellow, but chances are good it’s old, costly and one of the reasons educators are making sacrifices in the education they provide…Read more...

  • Strengthening school security; Sheriff’s office proposes plan to place deputies in county districts (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • The Lorain County Sheriff’s Office wants to work with school districts in townships to periodically station deputies in school buildings…Read more...

  • Licking County schools wary of adding more shared services (Newark Advocate)
  • Every day, students attending Flying Colors Public Preschool learn a variety of lessons, including how to share…Read more...

  • Big districts can lead to bus issues (Newark Advocate)
  • Amanda King has an hour bus ride to and from Philo High School. This senior uses the morning trip to get the remainder of sleep out of her eyes, and the way home is spent in anticipation of getting something to eat before chores and homework…Read more...

  • Perrysburg Schools named Best Community for Music Education (Toledo Blade)
  • Perrysburg School District has, for the seventh year in a row, been selected as on of the Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation…Read more...

  • Kenston, teachers union without contract, working with federal mediator (Willoughby News Herald)
  • A federal mediator is working with the Kenston Education Association and district administrators to help iron out differences arising in contract negotiations…Read more...

  • Columbiana school board clarifies use of bond funds (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • During a special meeting, the Columbiana school board unanimously adopted a resolution clarifying how the proceeds would be spent if…Read more...


    A new leader for Ohio schools (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

    The swearing-in Monday of Richard Ross as Ohio's new state school superintendent comes at a critical time for state education policy. Pending reforms put a premium on stability and integrity at the top…Read more...

  • Kasich's funding formula fails traditional schools; redrafting by the General Assembly is imperative (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • The Ohio legislature ought to rewrite Gov. John Kasich's flawed school-funding formula to reflect the state's higher priority -- adequate funding of the state's traditional public schools…Read more...

  • Mayor Coleman: Let us help (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Over the past several months, we’ve seen our community come together like never before behind the cause of educating our children…Read more...

  • Promising minds are overlooked (Columbus Dispatch)
  • It’s unfortunate that most of the top high-school achievers who are poor don’t apply to the nation’s most-selective colleges and universities…Read more...

  • Settle on system for measurement of Ohio school performance (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • The problem with labels is they rarely tell the whole story. In the case of the Ohio Department of Education’s newest label, the story of school performance has become muddled…Read more...

Now is the time to do something about gun violence

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings, the President has released his plan to improve gun safety and hopefully prevent future massacres and gun related deaths.

His full plan can be read here.

Here's a list of his major principles:

  • Require criminal background checks for all gun sales.
  • Take four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system.
  • Reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban.
  • Restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
  • Protect police by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets.
  • Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
  • End the freeze on gun violence research.
  • Make our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans.
  • Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
  • Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.

On top of these principles the President also issued 23 executive orders:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

The NEA has issued a strong endrosement of this plan

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued the following statement:

“The senseless tragedy in Newtown was a tipping point and galvanization for action. As educators, we have grieved too long and too often—for the children killed, their families and the heroic educators who gave their lives trying to protect their students. Now more than ever we need to do what is necessary to make sure every child in our nation’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.

“We commend President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for moving swiftly and presenting concrete, bold steps to keep children safe and begin addressing gun violence in America. We believe the common-sense recommendations put forth by President Obama are an important first step toward keeping children safe, providing more support for students and educators, and keeping military-style weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them. To solve the problem, we must have not only meaningful action on preventing gun violence but also bullying prevention and much greater access to mental health services, so that educators and families can identify problems and intervene before it’s too late.

In a letter to Vice President Biden, the NEA outlined its proposal that, while including sensible gun safety recommendations, focuses on truly preventive measures, including greater access to mental health services, plus the infrastructure, training and programs that will ensure safe learning environments for the nation’s children.

The presidential recommendations are in line with the views of NEA members. A new NEA member poll released yesterday indicates overwhelming support for stronger gun violence prevention laws, including background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. The NEA members polled also overwhelmingly rejected the idea of arming educators.

“The idea of arming teachers as some had suggested was rightly and soundly rejected by the president’s task force. We especially welcome the president’s comprehensive approach by allowing school districts the option to design and implement appropriate measures to make schools safer and protect their students.

“With the clock ticking to prevent another Sandy Hook and Americans demanding swift action, the nation’s attention now is squarely on Congress. The time is now for Washington to put politics aside and work together to keep our children safe and reduce the incidence of gun violence in our communities.”

Romney’s plan would cut education, drastically

During the last Presidential debate, Mitt Romney surprised a lot of watchers by claiming, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.”

But according to his own plan, that claim doesn't hold water, as Innovation Ohio point out, after looking at his plan

But that’s exactly what his plan proposes. From “The Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs”:

Reduce federal spending as a share of GDP to 20 percent – its pre-crisis average – by 2016.

Even while it cuts total spending to 20 percent of the nation’s economy, compared to 23 percent today, the plan also promises to increase the rate of growth in GDP, but also increases spending on defense and holds Social Security and Medicare harmless. To make the numbers work, Romney has admitted it will require nearly $500 billion in annual cuts by 2016.

That kind of money is not going to come exclusively from eliminating Big Bird.

Innovation Ohio and the Center for American Progress have calculated that the plan will result in across-the-board cuts to remaining federal programs equal to 11 percent in 2013, and averaging 39 percent a year over the next decade.

What does that mean for education?

According to the Ohio Department of Education, in 2011, Ohio school districts received $1.7 billion in federal education funding.

In 2013, this means Ohio schools would be cut by $189 million. Over the decade, schools would see $669 million less, each year, under the Romney plan.

We know candidates often try to put their plans in the best possible light, but Romney’s claim he won’t cut education doesn’t hold up.

Education News for 05-31-2012

State Education News

  • State Gets Go-Ahead To End Federal Tutoring Program (WBNS)
  • The state auditor was investigating allegations of fraudulent billing in connection with a federal tutoring program, 10TV’s Kristyn Hartman reported on Wednesday. Officials from the Ohio Department of Education said that they wanted to get rid of the federally funded tutoring program designed to help students at underperforming schools. The Supplemental Educational Services program, part of the No Child Left Behind program, is designed to gives students help outside of the classroom. Read More...

  • Educators, Parents Call For Better Funding For Ohio Public Schools (ONN)
  • Parents and educators from Cincinnati protested in front of the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday afternoon. At the center of controversy Wednesday was an education funding formula that many believe puts some districts at a disadvantage. "We have to raise money by selling wrapping paper in order to have enough pencils for our children to take tests, but literally 20 minutes away every child has a laptop," said Ruth Ann Wolfe. Read More...

Local Issues

  • Area educators react to decision on No Child Left Behind change in Ohio (News Herald)
  • Area educators are expressing mixed reaction to this week's announcement that Ohio schools will be freed from several regulations of the No Child Left Behind Act. The U.S. Department of Education approved the state's waiver application Tuesday. Schools in the state will now be given greater flexibility to meet accountability standards, including removal of some reporting requirements, and they will also have more freedom in use of federal funds, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Read More...

  • Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's bid for local control of charter schools fits national push for accountability (Plain Dealer)
  • Mayor Frank Jackson's bid for more local control of charter schools in Cleveland wasn't a big reach by national standards. Most states require charter schools -- public schools that receive tax money, but are privately run -- to be created through major educational institutions such as local school districts, universities or the state education department. Read More...

  • Utica High School Students To Receive iPads (WBNS )
  • UTICA, Ohio - North Fork Local Schools officials said that they will lease 560 iPads to students in the next four years, 10TV News reported on Wednesday. According to administrators, the tablets would be paid for using money that would have been used to purchase textbooks and paper. Read More...

  • Picture of inspiration goes viral (Dispatch)
  • By the second lap, Matt Woodrum had slowed down. The fifth-grader with cerebral palsy clearly was in pain. 'You’re not stopping, are you?' his gym teacher asked, already knowing the answer. 'No.' Matt pushed on. The determination that the 11-year-old showed in completing the 400-meter race on May 16 inspired not only his classmates and school officials, but also viewers around the world who have seen the viral YouTube video online. Read More...

  • ODE: Monroe taking right path to emerge from fiscal emergency (Middletown Journal News)
  • MONROE — Monroe stakeholders have taken the right approach to reach financial solvency for the school district, a state education official said. Roger Hardin of the Ohio Department of Education, said he’s seen a series of trends when it comes to dealing with fiscal emergencies in school districts. Read More...

Editorial & Opinion

  • New opportunity (Findlay Courier)
  • Now that Ohio has been granted relief from some federal education mandates, lawmakers and educators need to raise the bar in education. The No Child Left Behind Act, which has been in place since 2001, requires states, among other things, to test students in reading and math in order to receive federal dollars. Those states which don't have a 100 percent compliance rate by 2014 would risk losing federal money. Read More...

  • Proficient learners (Beacon Journal)
  • In 2001, education reformers on Capitol Hill and the White House set a high goal for the nation’s public schools: The No Child Left Behind Act would ensure that every child was proficient in math and reading by 2013-14. States would set proficiency targets and measure districts and schools on Adequate Yearly Progress. Progressively stern interventions awaited districts and schools that failed persistently to make the required progress. Read More...

  • Keeping No Child Left Behind waiver is Ohio's next challenge: editorial (Plain Dealer)
  • It's no surprise that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave Ohio and seven other states a waiver Tuesday from some of the most onerous and unattainable mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. Eleven other states have gotten waivers -- and more, if not all, probably will end up with them, given the impossibility of meeting the mandate that 100 percent of students test proficient in math and reading by 2014. Read More...

  • Get on board (Dispatch)
  • With the federal government’s decision to free Ohio from the unrealistic mandates of the No Child Left Behind law, state lawmakers have even greater obligation to come to terms with Gov. John Kasich’s efforts to move schools toward academic improvement. Read More...

Education News for 05-30-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Federal waiver in hand, state to get tough evaluating schools (Dispatch)
  • WASHINGTON — The Obama administration gave Ohio extra flexibility to use its own education standards yesterday in exchange for the state using a hammer on school districts to ensure they adequately prepare students for college and careers. Also yesterday, a state study of the Kasich administration’s revised accountability system showed that about a quarter of all Ohio traditional and charter school districts — including Columbus and virtually all urban schools — would flunk. Read More...

  • Student pay-to-play fees rise at local schools (Dayton Daily News)
  • Many area families will have to pay two or three times the amount they paid last year for their kids to participate in school sports and other activities as part of districts’ efforts to cut costs. For the affected districts, the average increase is more than 100 percent. At Beavercreek, Huber Heights, Valley View and Vandalia-Butler school districts — each of which recently announced multimillion-dollar cuts to stem widespread budget deficits — costs will be higher for the 2012-13 than they were this past school year. Read More...

  • Ohio granted waiver to federal education law (Enquirer)
  • Ohio public schools are no longer under the gun to get 100 percent of their students proficient in math and reading by 2014. Ohio on Tuesday joined seven states that won federal approval to waive that requirement and other aspects of No Child Left Behind education law. “This is a major step forward that will allow us to raise the bar for our schools,” said Stan Heffner, Ohio’s superintendent of schools. In total, 19 states have received federal waivers, including Kentucky, which received one in February. Read More...

  • Federal government waives No Child Left Behind standards for Ohio (Plain Dealer)
  • WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Education has granted Ohio's request to waive some compliance standards of the 2001 No Child Left Behind law and replace them with benchmarks that Ohio's education department deems more realistic. Ohio's waiver was among eight that Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced today, bringing the total number of state waivers granted to 19. "We couldn't be more proud of the creativity, courage and innovation shown by these states," Duncan told reporters. Read More...

  • Middle-schoolers get additional shots at taking high-school courses (Dispatch)
  • By the time 12-year-old Kallie Boren starts high school, she’ll have enough credits to be a sophomore. She’s set to finish the seventh grade at Pickerington’s Lakeview Junior High School with two high-school credits, for Spanish I and honors Algebra I. She’ll earn four more next school year by taking Spanish 2, honors geometry, integrated science, theater and technology. “I’d like to get ahead when I’m in high school,” she said. “I like the challenge.” Read More...

Local Issues

  • High-school students taking courses in Columbus State program must choose major (Dispatch)
  • High-school students who take classes at Columbus State Community College through a special state program will have to declare a major and follow a program of study starting in the fall. They also will be required to take the courses they need to graduate, such as English, math and science, at their high school before they can take courses in those areas at Columbus State. “We simply want to put students on a clear path to success,” said Karen Gray, Columbus State’s director of dual enrollment. Read More...

  • Akron schools’ anti-bullying program dismantled to avoid deficit (Beacon Journal)
  • Akron Public Schools has eliminated its innovative anti-bullying program to balance the books this year, according to the latest five-year budget projections the school board approved at a special meeting Tuesday. The program is part of the district’s Office of Drug/Violence Prevention, which is tasked with handling the social and emotional problems that can interfere with learning. Akron Public Schools had received funding for the program through competitive federal, state and local grants, which dried up in 2010 for all 50 states. Read More...

  • Utica gets iPads for high-schoolers (Newark Advocate)
  • UTICA - Utica High School students are going to be connected in a new way in the 2012-13 school year. Every student will be given an iPad on the first day of school in the fall. "I think it's the way education is going," Principal Mark Bowman said. "Myself and my staff are very excited, and my students are very excited. Any time you can get kids excited about coming to school, that's great." The North Fork Local School District is leasing 560 iPad 2s at a cost of $74,500 per year for four years, with the option to buy each for $1 at the end of the lease. Read More...


  • No one is representing the children (Dispatch)
  • Working in the world of state-level education policy, frustration and disappointment are part of the job. I admit to giving in to frustration and even a little anger over the past year at the all-too-frequent hypocrisy. Everyone always says, “It’s about the kids,” but in reality, policy too often has little to do with children or their well-being. The focus always seems to come down to adults and institutions doing what they do best — protecting their status quo. Read More...

  • Out of the loop: The state must talk to Duquesne students' districts (Post-Gazette)
  • Now that officials have told Duquesne's sixth- and seventh-graders they'll be attending either West Mifflin or East Allegheny schools in the fall, it's time for the state Education Department to talk to those districts, too. It's been clear that Duquesne no longer can provide the education its children require and deserve. With its high schoolers already attending the neighboring districts, extending the arrangement to next year's seventh- and eighth-graders makes sense. Duquesne students should be in classrooms where they can learn and succeed. Read More...