Reading Requires Outside Knowledge

kid-reading-manual_thumb.jpgDaniel Willingham is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and he wrote a piece at Real Clear Education entitled “Common Core and ‘Close Reading’: Effectiveness Questionable without Outside Knowledge” that is worth a read.

He points out that close reading entails rereading the text kids are working with and then dealing mainly with the author’s words in the text.  Both of these he says are good practices (and I agree).

It is the third component of close reading that he has an issue with.  Willingham writes:

…we will view a text as being self-contained. We will only draw conclusions that are defensible via the author’s words. In fact, we will read the text as though we know nothing about the subject at hand; the author’s words will be not only necessary for our interpretation, we’ll consider them sufficient.

It’s that last bit that seems crazy to me.

Rereading? Sure. Paying close attention to the author’s words? Great idea. But pretending that one’s knowledge is not relevant to interpreting a text conflicts with how writers write and with how readers read.

Writers count on their audience to bring knowledge to bear on the text.


So the nature of writing and the nature of reading seem contrary to one aspect of close reading, namely, the idea that we can put a fence around a text, and read it only with reference to the contents of the text.


Except in very restricted academic settings — that is, among people who like close reading — it’s not obvious to me how this sort of reading will serve students well.

Careful study of language, focus on the author’s words, assumption that rereading pays off: yes. Excluding knowledge outside of the text: no.

Read the rest.

HT: Education in Iowa – Karen W looks at video of a close reading exercise with 4th graders. It’s worth taking a look.

Shock Poll: 56% of Tennessee Teachers Want to Abandon Common Core

1379075975000-Tennessee-FlagThe Tennessean reports that a majority of teachers now oppose the Common Core State Standards.

I’m sure that’s just because of misconceptions they have right?

I mean really how will Fordham and other advocates spin this?

We are not talking a small number of teachers surveyed either.

27,000 teachers were polled by the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development.

56% of those teachers want to totally abandon the standards.  13% want to delay them.  Only 31% of teachers surveyed want to continue on course.

This should send a clear signal to the Tennessee Legislature and Governor Bill Haslam that it is time to repeal the Common Core.  Parents and now teachers are speaking very clearly.  Either you side with your constituents or you side with big business.

Louisiana Legislative Audit Suggests Common Core Drives Curriculum

On Monday the Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued a pro-Common Core report that declares the Common Core State Standards drive curriculum.  It even when so far to suggest that the problem with implementation is the lack of aligned curriculum.

Below is a press release from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s office:

Citing challenges states and schools have had with the implementation, the Legislative Auditor states, “Implementation of the standards has been an ongoing challenge as states, districts, and individual schools have worked to develop curricula and put together textbook lists, instructional materials, lesson plans, and professional development training to help them meet the standards.”

The Legislative Auditor also states that the “hindrances” of implementation include “the lack of curricula, textbooks, instructional materials, and assessments aligned with the [Common Core] standards.”

The Legislative Auditor notes that in order to meet the Common Core Standards, “state education authorities and local districts have revamped their curricula, while teachers have rewritten their lesson plans and gathered new books and instructional materials.”

While the Legislative Auditor says “Standards are not the same thing as curricula, textbooks, lesson plans, or classroom activities and assignments,” the report clearly declares that standards drive curriculum.

Governor Jindal’s Assistant Chief of Staff and Education Policy Advisor Stafford Palmieri said, “We appreciate the Legislative Auditor’s report as it confirms what parents, educators, legislators and the Governor have been saying all along – standards drive curriculum. In black and white, the Auditor states that states, districts and educators have had to revamp curriculum, lesson plans and learning materials to align with Common Core Standards.

“It’s time for the proponents of Common Core to admit that Common Core equals curriculum. What are they hiding from? If Common Core supporters are proud of the standards, they should be proud that it drives curriculum. Instead, education bureaucrats, elitists and the intelligentsia are trying to wordsmith and dupe parents and educators. It won’t work. Parents and educators are smarter than that.”

This of course is by design.  Bill Gates said to the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2009,  “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well-and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. Imagine having the people who create electrifying video games applying their intelligence to online tools that pull kids in and make algebra fun.”

Gates-Funded Group Targets Catholic Organization Over Common Core

Gates foundationThe Cardinal Newman Society reports that they are being targeted by a Gates-funded lobbying group over their “Catholic is our Core” initiative.

They write:

Sara Pruzin, a state operations associate for the Council for a Strong America (CSA) and former communications intern for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, unwittingly contacted a Cardinal Newman Society leader to rally Catholic support for the Common Core.  She sent an email on August 28 to Dr. Daniel Guernsey, director of the Newman Society’s K-12 Education Programs, at his office at Ave Maria University in Florida, asking him to consider writing op-eds and letters to the editor in support of the Common Core.

“We are concerned about the strident attacks coming from parts of the Catholic community, which we believe are inaccurate and meant more to divide than to inform,” Pruzin wrote.  “We feel that it is important to respond to the negative statements about the Common Core, rather than let them go unanswered.”

Pruzin later confirmed that her criticisms were aimed at The Cardinal Newman Society, and her email was part of a major effort to build support among Catholic educators.  She said the Gates Foundation grantee has reached out to about 50 Catholic educators and leaders, including superintendents in a dozen states and officials at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)—which is also a recipient of Gates funding to promote the Common Core.

CSA received $1.7 million from the Gates Foundation in July 2013 “to educate and engage stakeholders about the Common Core and teacher development through a range of communications activities”.  These have included rallying retired military officers, police officers, business leaders and others to advocate Common Core in many states.

But the Council’s new initiative moves from the realm of public policy to the Catholic Church, which has sponsored or inspired education that significantly outperforms public schools.  Catholic schools have none of the pressures for reform and are ineligible for the federal funding that motivated many state superintendents to embrace the Common Core.

Read the rest.

Engaging in public policy debates is one thing, but to target a group because they started a “Catholic Is Our Core” Initiative for Catholic schools is absolutely over the top.  This isn’t the only time Gates has meddled with Catholic education.  Gates has provided funding for the National Catholic Education Association.  Catholic schools which have promoted classical education for years and years have a solid track record for producing high-performing students.  It just seems like Gates wants to wipe out competition that would make Common Core look even worse than it already does.

How Common Core Advocates Ignored Early Childhood Experts

Carol Burris, Principal of South Side High School in New York, last week wrote about four “flimflams” in Common Core at The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog run by Valarie Strauss.  Flimflam #1 was this – “The Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked and grounded in research.”

The fact that the Common Core is dataless reform and lacks evidence is a point I hammer a lot.  Burris did a masterful job debunking this particular claim made by advocates.  She brought up a statement from 500 early childhood experts in 2010 who found the early childhood Common Core standards developmentally inappropriate and urged that the standards for grades K-3 be suspended.

If I have encountered this statement before I don’t remember it.  Think about this… 500 pediatricians, researchers and psychologists said these standards were bad for early childhood in a statement in March 2, 2010 and state boards of education still adopted them.

Were board members even aware of this statement?

We know that most were not aware of five members of the Common Core validation committee not signing off, and I’m sure their dissent was glossed over.  How do you ignore this?

The fact that Common Core advocates were warned about the developmental inappropriateness of the early childhood standards by experts in this field and they did nothing.

Perhaps they were like an arrogant college math professor I encountered in eastern Iowa.  They thought they knew best.  They don’t.

Burris notes that one of the few early childhood experts on the team who wrote the literacy standards is now against them.

Dr. Louisa Moats, one of the few early childhood experts on the team that wrote the literacy standards, is now an outspoken critic because the Common Core standards disregard decades of research on early reading development. She began expressing her concerns in 2012 in a paper entitled “Reconciling the Common Core State Standards with Reading Research” which can be found here. In it, Moats describes the Common Core as a “political (and philosophical) compromise” which reflects contemporary ideas, not reading research. She is not alone in her critique. Researchers Hiebert and Sluys also among other researchers who have expressed concerns about the consequences of the premises and practices embedded in the Common Core…

She then added.

So where is the research to support: close reading, increased Lexile levels, the use of informational texts and other questionable practices in the primary grades? During our recent Intelligence Squared debate on the Common Core the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli told the audience he “spent the big part of the weekend talking to some reading experts.” When I later asked Mr. Petrilli for the evidence of the research on Common Core reading methods he said, “Well, I will be happy to go find it for you after this debate.” I am still waiting.

Petrilli did eventually reply, but gave “evidence” which a reading expert said was not something educators would deem to be research.  Ouch.

Just so you can read them for yourself, here are some examples from the Common Core Kindergarten standards that are clearly developmentally inappropriate.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.3 (Kindergarten Operations & Algebraic Thinking)

Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).


For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.NBT.A.1 (Number & Operations in Base 10)

Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.8 (Informational Text)

With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.


Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).


Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.


Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.1 Speaking & Listening

Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.


Common Core Not Controversial in Washoe County? So Says – One Guy?

renoOn September 17, 2014, Mr. Robert Pondiscio of The Fordham Institute said, “Common Core is not controversial” in Washoe County. I think his editor may have left some words out of that sentence. My guess is it originally read – Common Core is not controversial in the office of Washoe County’s, curriculum and instruction specialist Aaron Grossman, during my closed door interview with him. That sounds slightly less fictional.

Once again the Fordham folks are big on promotion and slim on facts. Washoe County has had much controversy. Parents in Washoe don’t care for Common Core State Standards anymore than parents anywhere else across the state or across the nation. Was Mr. Pondiscio limited on space? Was he not allowed to speak with actual classroom teachers, assuming he could find any willing to put their livelihood on the line? As with most pushers of Common Core State Standards Mr. Grossman has not been in the classroom, as a teacher, for years. Not only is he the curriculum and instruction specialist but he has been on special assignment specifically to promote the Common Core State Standards.

I find that hilarious.

Why do standards need promoting? They’re “just standards” right? Educated teachers get it don’t they? According to Webster a standard is “That which is established by authority as a rule for measuring.”

Mr. Pondiscio says, this has been “Far from a top-down initiative…” Is he under the impression that the children of Washoe are asking for Mr. Grossman to run around the district waving the Common Core pompons, singing the praises of David Coleman et al.

The governor of Nevada, or his staff, send off-the-mark meandering emails in response to sincere correspondence from parents asking the governor to stop Common Core State Standards (which were so stealthy renamed, Nevada Academic Content Standards in 2010) in Nevada because they see the harm it is doing their children while Mr. Grossman is working on tax payer dollars to create and promote his Core Task Project. Not only is that a top-down initiative – it is a top-down initiative at both an emotional and financial cost to the people of Nevada.

Speaking of the Core Task Project – I would stop bragging about it for purposes of Common Core promotion if I were Mr. Pondiscio, for a couple of reasons. Not only is Mr. Grossman the golden boy for the state leaders who are still supporting the evidence-free Common Core State Standards, but as Fordham has already pointed out the project is only working with a third of the Washoe schools. Assuming a somewhat equitable distribution in the district’s 63,000 student enrollment that’s about 21,000 students more or less – not much to brag about considering this project is three years old, has the state’s blessing, and tax payer money fueling its efforts.

Fordham is grasping at straws by holding up Washoe as the shiny example for the nation to look to as the Common Core State Standards implementation leader. Nevada as a whole is lagging behind the nation with regard to implementing the Common Core State Standards. Mr. Grossman, may be a big dog in Washoe, but not so much in Clark County, where we are home to 311,000 of the state’s students in one district. Although he was flown in (I believe at tax payer expense) to give his Power Point presentation to the Interim Legislative Committee on Education to counter Jane Robbins’, Fellow with American Principles Project, eloquent presentation, we were not moved.

Mr. Grossman may have the good fortune of being “one of the boys,” however, the good teachers – who still believe in the art and science of teaching – want nothing to do with Common Core State Standards. I reach out to teachers almost daily and the responses I receive are appalling. Teachers still in the classroom are afraid to speak out publicly. Why is that? Those that will speak will only do so anonymously and what they have to say about Common Core State Standards is not positive. The saddest of all are the teachers who tell me they “are just counting (their) days until they can get out,” or “retire.” Common Core is their breaking point. These aren’t the lemons – these are the award winning quality, caring teachers we are losing to a bureaucratic take over of our classrooms. The lemons, of course, are staying. Bad standards, bad curriculum, bad teachers, its all a much better fit.

As far as teacher-created curriculum goes – sure we have teachers still writing their own curriculum and putting together their own lessons plans in Clark County as well, which is a good thing. Some are doing so in defiance while others are doing so because they don’t have “Common Core aligned” material yet, which is a good thing. Nevada does not have the estimated 150 million dollars to pay for Common Core State Standards and its mandated testing, which is a good thing.

But, by all means, Mr. Pondiscio, please interview Mr. Grossman again after our first round of national assessments and see how well the “teacher-led” and “grassroots” curriculum faired against a test they did not create. Oh, don’t worry about the grades, we’ve all been sufficiently warned that we can expect a big drop in our student’s percentages due to the immense rigor built into the Common Core. I understand that, however, my money is on the curriculum lining up with the tests faster than Marines lining up under orders from their Drill Sergeant because parents will only buy the “rigor” argument for so long and teachers will only be held accountable for the state’s doing for so long before we all stop this ridiculous dance around the elephant in the living room.

Washoe was a weak choice Mr. Pondiscio. If one guy working at the behest of the state on tax payer money was the best you could come up with – well, then Common Core State Standards really has no stronghold on the nation after all.

Missouri Activists Sue State of Missouri Over Common Core Payments

Gretchen Logue  and Anne Gassel  of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core have joined Fred N. Sauer in filing a taxpayer lawsuit against Governor Nixon, Commissioner Nicastro, and other state officials.  The lawsuit challenges Missouri’s payment of taxpayer money to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a consortium of states that is implementing tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards (“Common Core”).

Logue and Gassel’s lawsuit alleges that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an unconstitutional interstate compact that was not approved by Congress, in violation of the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 10.  The suit also alleges that Governor Nixon and Commissioner Nicastro’s course of conduct in committing Missouri to Common Core was in violation of numerous federal and state statutes.

By passing HB 1490 by an overwhelming majority, the Missouri state legislature effectively repudiated Common Core, requiring it to be replaced by 2016.  But Missouri has not withdrawn from the consortium of states implementing Common Core aligned tests.  According to public records, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education plans to send millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to the Smarter Balanced consortium in 2015, which will be used to support the implementation of Common Core in numerous other states.  These payments are illegal under the federal constitution, federal statutes, and Missouri state law.

Governor Nixon and Commissioner Nicastro engaged in a long course of conduct, in cooperation with the federal Department of Education, to commit Missouri’s public schools to Common Core without legislative approval.  The “consortium” of States implementing tests aligned with Common Core constitutes an illegal end-run around federal statutes forbidding the federal Department from implementing a national test or curriculum.  Even though Missouri is committed to exiting Common Core, DESE nevertheless continues to participate in SBAC and to administer the SBAC common core aligned tests in this state.

“The Missouri Legislature and Missouri voters have rejected Common Core.  Yet DESE continues to plan to send millions of dollars of payments to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to support the implementation of Common Core in other states.  The consortium is an unconstitutional entity, and these payments are illegal.  We will continue to fight to protect Missouri taxes from being spent for this illegal purpose,” said Gassel and Logue.

Feds Bypass States to Get Local Districts to Sign “Future Ready District Pledge”

1024px-US-DeptOfEducation-SealMissouri Education Watchdog first reported today that the U.S. Department of Education has sent out a letter to Superintendents of local school districts explaining their “future ready district pledge.”

You can find the letter here and I also have the text below:

Dear Superintendent,

As one of more than 16,000 superintendents leading school districts across the nation, you are on the forefront of the transformation of public education. Technology now allows for personalized digital learning for every student in the nation so long as leaders have the technological infrastructure and human capacity in place to ensure success.

The Future Ready District Pledge is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve that success and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship. The U.S. Department of Education seeks to encourage and support superintendents who commit to taking a leadership role in this transition with recognition and resources to help facilitate this transition to digital learning.

In June of 2013, the President launched the ConnectED Initiative to provide 99% of students in the nation with access to high-speed Internet connectivity at the classroom level. Coupled with two billion dollars from the federal E-Rate program, increased flexibility in the use of federal funds, and billions of dollars in additional commitments from the private sector, progress towards improving the nation’s physical infrastructure has already been dramatically accelerated.

However, in order for these resources to leverage their maximum impact on student learning, schools and districts must develop the human capacity, digital materials, and device access to use the new bandwidth wisely and effectively. The Future Ready District Pledge establishes a framework for achieving those goals and will be followed by providing district leaders with additional implementation guidance, online resources, and other support they need to transition to effective digital learning and achieve tangible outcomes for the students they serve.

The U.S. Department of Education is calling on superintendents like you who lead district, charter, and private schools to join us in taking the Future Ready District Pledge and working to develop, implement, and share your technology plan with other districts so they can learn from your successes and challenges along the way.

Thank you for all you are already doing to improve the education for our nation’s students. Do not hesitate to reach out to us for support. We stand ready to help you become a Future Ready district.

Richard Culatta
Director, Office of Educational Technology
Office of the Secretary

Seth Andrew
Senior Advisor & Superintendent in Residence
Office of the Secretary

Here is the text of their pledge:

Future Ready District Pledge

I, _______________________, Superintendent of _________________________ do hereby affirm the commitment of this district to work with students, educators, families, and members of our community to become Future Ready by engaging in a wide range of activities such as:

Fostering and Leading a Culture of Digital Learning Within Our Schools.
Future Ready district leadership teams work collaboratively to transform teaching and learning using the power of technology to help drive continuous improvement. We work together to protect student privacy and to teach students to become responsible, engaged, and contributing digital citizens.
Helping Schools and Families Transition to High-speed Connectivity.
Future Ready districts conduct comprehensive diagnostic assessments of the district’s technology infrastructure and develop a sustainable plan to ensure broadband classroom connectivity and wireless access. Future Ready districts work with community partners to leverage local, state, and federal resources to support home Internet access outside of traditional school hours.
Empowering Educators through Professional Learning Opportunities.
Future Ready districts strive to provide everyone with access to personalized learning opportunities and instructional experts that give teachers and leaders the individual support they need, when they need it. Future Ready districts provide tools to help teachers effectively leverage learning data to make better instructional decisions.
Accelerating Progress Toward Universal Access for All Students to Quality Devices.
Future Ready districts work with necessary stakeholders to ensure that all students and educators across the district have regular access to devices for learning. Future Ready districts develop tools to support a robust infrastructure for managing and optimizing safe and effective use of technology, so students have opportunities to be active learners, creating and sharing content, not just consuming it.
Providing Access to Quality Digital Content.
Future Ready districts align, curate, create, and consistently improve digital materials and apps used in the support of learning. Future Ready districts use carefully selected high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards as an essential part of daily teaching and learning. Teachers are able to share, discover, and adapt openly-licensed materials and teaching plans.
Offering Digital Tools to Help Students And Families #ReachHigher.
Future Ready districts make digital resources available that help access expanded college, career, and citizenship opportunities. Future Ready districts promote ways to leverage technology to expand equity through digital activities such as completion of the FAFSA online, virtual counseling services, college scholarship search tools, and online advising access, all of which help to return America to the nation in the world with the highest college completion rate by 2020.
Mentoring Other Districts and Helping Them Transition to Digital Learning.
Future Ready districts work to design, implement, and share their technology plans. Future Ready districts join regional summits, participate in an online Connected Superintendents’ community of practice, and publish their Future Ready technology plan at a site such as

There are numerous problems with this pledge which Anne Gassel highlights at MEW, but the most troubling aspect to this is the trend of the U.S. Department of Education bypassing states.  They have done it with the District Level Race to the Top program and other federal grants, with the Principal and Teacher Ambassador program, and now this.

Just a reminder… there is no constitutional role in education for the federal government.

Only 26% of Ohio Voters Support Common Core

This week the Columbus Dispatch released a poll that shows the Common Core has little support among Ohio voters.  The poll of 1,185 registered voters has a +/- margin of error of 2.7 %.

They asked the question of those surveyed, “from what you know, do you support or oppose the Common Core educational standards being implemented in Ohio.”

Just slightly more than one in four Ohioans (26%) said they supported the Common Core.  43% said they oppose the Common Core.  31% said they didn’t know.

Ohio is home to the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation who have been avid promoters of the Common Core State Standards.  Obviously they are incredibly effective in their own home state.

There is a bill, HB 597,  before the Ohio House Rules & Reference Committee.  Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute recently wrote that the bill represents a “smart exit strategy.”

Learning from Indiana’s disastrous effort and the good efforts in Oklahoma and South Carolina, Ohio’s HB597 is a huge step forward in that it not only rejects Common Core’s mediocre offerings, but it provides on an interim basis Massachusetts’ nation-leading standards as the new foundation to draft off of in developing new Ohio standards.  The Massachusetts’ standards go into place for two years as Ohio educators, businesses, scholars and parents put their heads together in a truly public process—and develop, we hope, even better standards than what Massachusetts had.

But will Ohio Governor John Kasich listen to not only the poll, but this reasonable approach to exit from the Common Core?

It appears that he remains tone deaf and he said earlier this month doesn’t expect a repeal bill.

In a meeting yesterday with the Dispatch editorial board, Kasich was asked about the effort by some Republican legislative leaders to repeal the Common Core education standards for math and English/language arts, along with Ohio’s other standards and tests.

“I don’t know that there’s any effort to repeal Common Core,” he said. “There may be an effort to talk about it.”

Kasich has said he supports the Common Core standards, adopted by Ohio and more than 40 other states in 2010 after they were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers as a way to boost college and career readiness among U.S. students.

“I wish we could just change the name to Ohio’s standards, or whatever,” Kasich said.

It appears that he thinks just a rebranding will do.  Governor Kasich, Ohioans do not agree.

Minnesota Students Pressured Over Opting Out of Assessments

A principal and science teacher in a southern Minnesota middle school tried to convince students who opted out of taking the NWEA MAP test last week that their parents misunderstood the assessments and were conveying false information to them about the nature of the assessments.

Some students recorded their principal talking to students who opted out of the assessments waiting in their school’s cafeteria while the assessments were administered.

The name of the school, principal and teacher are being withheld by request of the parents.

Here is audio from the first day, I am just including the last almost five minutes of the audio file. Update: At the request of a couple different people I’m sharing the longer audio file with a redaction of a student’s name and teacher’s name.  I did trim one-and-a-half minutes at the beginning which included smaller group discussion and was inaudible.

She gives an apology for data collection, and during her remarks she actually discusses an individual student’s results with the students gathered which, even though he performed well, is a violation of privacy (not included in the audio file I’m sharing).  She then discusses “misconceptions” surrounding the test after asking students if they knew the difference between the NWEA and MCA assessments.

The principal said, “I talked to some of your parents and some of your parents did not have all of the knowledge correct either.  Some of your parents didn’t even say the right tests.  They called it by a different name.  I am not telling you this in order to persuade you.  I’m totally cool with what you decide to do, but I also… my job is to give you the information and the knowledge to make an educated decision.”

She then asked why kids were opting out.  One said because they had mono.  Another said because their parent told them not to.  Another said because “there is Common Core in it.”  Other kids expressed their agreement with that child.

The principal responded, “Do you know that is not true?  There is not Common Core in it.  People are confused about this.  Common Core is this thing that is nation wide that no school in the state of Minnesota practices.  No school… They hear it on the national news, but it is not being taught.  You are not being taught Common Core.  Nor is Common Core in the NWEAs.  Common Core is about here are the objectives that students need to know and it has nothing to do with Common Core.  There is no bias in the NWEAs, and people are really confused about that.  And I’ve talked with some of your parents and some of them are going to come back and visit with me about that a little bit.”

“But just so you know that is not true,” she added.  “NWEA is just what is 3×5 and it has nothing to do with the Common Core and Common Core has nothing to do with the state of Minnesota.  We have Minnesota standards.  We have nothing to do with Common Core whatsoever.  So those are some misconceptions.  So you can clarify those and talk with some of your parents about that.  But that’s a big misconception.”

She and another teacher in the classroom affirmed that the school is “Minnesota Standards-based” and that “the NWEA is not Common Core.”

A science teacher who was also in the room chimed in.  “I have to tell you that when you don’t take the NWEA in Science it crushes my soul because I don’t give you guys tests very often and even less this year than last.  I’m trying to do mostly projects,” she said.  “Sometimes I can miss if you are really excelling.  All I can see is ‘oh yeah they got this.’  I don’t really see that you could have had this two years ago.  So it is really good for me to know if you need to be challenged more or are not getting it and it might explain why.  It’s really helpful to me.”

The same science teacher the next day of tests chided the kids for “lies and deceit” that was going around.  She was also recorded by some students.

“I have heard some bad stuff like parents talking really ad about our teachers here and misunderstanding what these tests are for.  Lies and deceit is going around and that is what I am seeing right here is some miscommunication and misunderstanding… It makes me sad.  It really does because I work really hard and I do everything I can for you.  One of the things that helps me do that is this test.  It is hurtful,” the teacher lamented.

It concerns me that these students are being “educated” by the school’s principal about an assessment.  Opting out is something they are doing as a result of the student’s parents.  Parents who are the ones responsible for the education of their children and who should have the final say.  What is the purpose of the principal talking to the students other than to pit students against their parents?

There should be universal agreement, whether you agree with the parents or not, that this conversation is clearly inappropriate.  The science teacher’s comments are over the top and frankly manipulative.

That said, I want to address the comment about Minnesota, the NWEA test and Common Core.

The principal’s comment that no school in Minnesota teaches the Common Core is patently false.  The Common Core English Language Arts standards were adopted by Minnesota in 2010.  They decided not to adopt the Common Core math standards however.   From the Minnesota State Department of Education’s website:

In 2010, Minnesota adopted the Common Core English language arts standards in their entirety and added some supplementary content. Public schools in Minnesota are required to implement the 2010Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in English Language Arts no later than the 2012-2013 school year.

Minnesota has not adopted the Common Core mathematics standards. The academic standards are revised according to a timetable specified in state statute (Minn. Stat. § 120B.023, Subd. 2). The 2007Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics were revised prior to the development of the Common Core mathematics standards, and legislative action would be needed in order for the state to adopt the Common Core mathematics standards before the next scheduled revision, in 2015.

While the state has not formally adopted the Common Core math standards, activists in Minnesota have told Truth in American Education that “Common Core-aligned” math textbooks are present in many Minnesota schools.

So let’s be clear here, Common Core is present in Minnesota schools, at the very least the Common Core ELA standards, have been implemented for two school years.

As far as the assessment goes.  NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assesses math, English language arts and science.  They do provide a Common Core version.  If you compare the NWEA’s MAP Minnesota goal structure chart with their MAP Common Core-aligned assessment goal structure chart you will find the math is different, but that the English literature arts goals for each assessment is identical.

So with these facts would this principal still maintain there is “no Common Core” in the assessment?  For math, that would be an accurate statement, but since the NWEA MAP assessment includes English Language Arts that is an absolute lie.

Update: Apparently Minnetonka School District 276 in Minnetonka, MN is more forthright with their parents than this particular school I discuss above.  From an email sent to parents on June 3, 2013

Finally, this year, students in grades 2-8 took NWEA’s new version of the Reading assessment, which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  School staff will use what they have learned from the new assessment for future planning.  Both the NWEA and MCA reading tests are now aligned to the Common Core.

Oops.  Either the principal and teacher in the audio clips above are supremely incompetent and clueless about what is going on with assessments they administer in their school or they are outright lying to parents and students.