Common Core Proponents Leave Parents, Policymakers in the Dark


From the beginning, deception has shrouded the Common Core national standards scheme. Proponents claim the standards were developed by state governors with the input of teachers and educators across the country, but they in fact were created in secret, by unknown people pursuing unknown agendas. The standards were touted as “voluntary,” even though any state hoping to receive Race to the Top bribe money during a deep recession had to adopt them. They were marketed as a means of increasing college-readiness, even though the developers admit the “college” in mind was merely a non-selective community college, and experts pointed out that students trained with Common Core would not be prepared for authentic college coursework in any area, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Like any deception, this one requires elaborate schemes to keep it going. A potential Achilles heel of Common Core has always been legitimate tests – not those funded by the federal government to align with Common Core, but those that actually measure student achievement and college-readiness. The real tests, of course, would likely destroy the illusion that Common Core improves either. Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute reports that those “real tests” are now disappearing.

Innes writes about the situation in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt Common Core and therefore has been implementing the standards longer than any other. In a recent post, Innes discusses the discontinuance of several tests offered by ACT, Inc. that Kentucky had used for years to measure students’ progress toward college-readiness (EXPLORE for 8th-graders, PLAN for 10th-graders, and COMPASS for older students who didn’t score well enough on the ACT college-entrance test). Over the past two years, ACT has announced discontinuance of all three tests.

Having used EXPLORE and PLAN since 2006-2007 and COMPASS since 2011-2012 (some Kentucky universities used COMPASS longer than that), Kentucky had compiled significant trend information from the scores. But those trend lines have now been cut. (Read Innes’s entire post for his dissection of ACT’s excuse for abolishing the tests.) As Innes writes, “Kentucky’s assessment trend lines have been vanishing left and right at precisely the time we badly need such trends to assess what Common Core is really accomplishing.”

“How convenient,” he notes, “for Common Core supporters who might be worried about what those discontinued tests might reveal.”

The disappearance of the ACT’s suite of tests isn’t the only testing change that masks the real situation under the national standards. Common Core architect David Coleman has revised the SAT to align with Common Core since he took over the College Board, so current scores can’t be compared meaningfully to pre-Common Core scores. And because Common Core-trained students have been scoring poorly on the “nation’s report card” – the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – Common Core proponents have suggested changing that test as well.

Another aspect of NAEP indicates that the stops are being pulled out to hide the failures of Common Core. As Innes explains, one part of the NAEP testing program is the Long-Term Trend (LTT) assessment – “the only long-running assessment program in the US that allows us to see how educational performance has trended over an extensive period of time for a valid random sample of students.” The NAEP LTT has been given roughly every four years since the 1970s, most recently in 2012. So we’re due for another administration of the test.

Except . . . NAEP’s governing board has now decided not to give the test in 2016, or in 2020 – maybe they’ll get back to it in 2024, but maybe not. As reported by Education Week, the excuse given for the remarkable delay is lack of funding (we know how the federal government reveres budgets). NAEP managed to find funding for a new Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) exam, but somehow it couldn’t scrape together the pennies to administer LTT.

“[LTT] could shed valuable light on how Common Core is performing,” Innes says. “Instead, yet another important trend line is cut.” Commenting for Education Week, Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institute agrees: “’During a time when we’re engaged in this project called Common Core, during which we really do need alternative data and measures of how well kids are doing in reading and math, we’ve poured resources into these other assessments [such as TEL]. . . .’ Loveless said he worried some of the so-called 21st century skills assessed on the TEL, like communication and problem-solving, are more nebulous or ‘faddish’ compared to the fairly concrete reading and math tests.”

If Common Core were what it’s cracked up to be, its proponents should welcome assessments that showcase academic improvements. But step by step, the Common Core establishment is whittling down those objective measures, leaving parents and policy-makers in the dark. It almost seems like deception.

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