Education Researchers: No Compelling Evidence Common Core Will Improve Education

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post reported that over 100 education researchers in California are calling for the end of high-states testing and claim that there is no “compelling evidence” that the Common Core State Standards will improve education for the state’s K-12 students in a research brief released in February.

The California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education is, according to their website, “a statewide collaborative of university-based education researchers that aims to speak as educational researchers, collectively and publicly, and in solidarity with organizations and communities, to reframe the debate on education.”

In their brief they state, “Overall, there is not a compelling body of research supporting the notion that a nationwide set of curriculum standards, including those like the CCSS, will either raise the quality of education for all children or close the gap between different groups of children. Therefore attaching high-stakes testing to the CCSS cannot be the solution for improving student learning. “

“Yet, with the CCSS comes even more testing than before, and based on those test scores, any number of high-stakes decisions may follow, all of which are decisions using scientifically discredited methods, namely, the use of value-added modeling that purport to attribute gains in test scores to such factors,” they warn.

The group states that independent examiners found that the Common Core assessment systems “lack validity, reliability, and fairness.”

They call for a halt on all high stakes testing.

…we support the public call for a moratorium on high-stakes testing broadly, and in particular, on the use of scientifically discredited assessment instruments (like the current SBAC, PARCC, and Pearson instruments) and on faulty methods of analysis (like value-added modeling of test scores for high-stakes decision making). Instead, our schools require more robust instruments and the use of assessments in ways that are formative and that aim for improvement of systems, not merely individuals.

You can read the entire research brief below:

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).

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.4

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.1 Writing

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…).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.2

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.K.7

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.

Incredible.

The Problem of Standards and Kindergarteners

kindergarten

Valarie Strauss had a good piece in Answer Sheet last week addressing the issue of Kindergarteners and standards.  She notes the problem as Kindergarten has literally evolved into the new first grade.

An excerpt:

Today, the majority of classrooms for preschool, kindergarten and primary age children are required to address content standards that prescribe what children are expected to learn. These standards are intended to insure that worthwhile subject matter is taught.Performance standards have been developed to find out if children have learned the prescribed content.

While standards are helpful for identifying valuable content, they can also have a negative impact on children and programs. Some of the problems with standards are that they are not always based on knowledge of how children grow and learn, and often do not take into account children’s needs, capacities, cultures, and unique characteristics. Standards can lead to teaching of skills in ways that are not effective or meaningful, to the narrowing of the curriculum, and to less time for play and hands-on learning experiences that are important foundations for later school success.

It is useful to find out if children have learned the prescribed content, but the way this is most often done is through testing – which also can have a negative impact on children and programs. One of the major problems with the tests is that they are often not based on knowledge of child development and are therefore not suited to the developmental abilities of young children. Another problem is that tests can only measure a narrow range of knowledge and skills, so they often miss important objectives of early childhood education like creativity, problem-solving, and social and emotional development. Teachers who want children to do well on tests may eliminate worthwhile learning experiences, introduce skills too early, or narrow the curriculum in order to “teach to the test”.

Research shows that children learn best when they have hands-on learning experiences, engage in structured play, experience facts within meaningful contexts, invent their own problems to explore and solve, and share their own solutions. The current emphasis on standards and testing has led many schools to over-focus on assessment at the expense of meeting children’s developmental needs and teaching meaningful content. Play and activity-based learning have been disappearing from many early childhood classrooms, and – along with them – children’s natural motivation and love of learning.

Very true!

Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works (CC-By-2.0)

New York Principal Speaks Out on Ridiculous Common Core Test for 1st Graders

carol burris 2Below is an excerpt from a guest blog written by Carol Burris, Principal at South Side High School in New York.  She was named the 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.  In 2010 she was named the New York State Outstanding Education by School Administrators Association of New York.

In a nutshell she knows her stuff.  Valerie Strauss published her blog post at The Answer Sheet which is Strauss’ education blog at The Washington Post.  Burris writes about a recent Common Core aligned test given to first graders in New York.

My speech teacher came to see me.  She was both angry and distraught.  In her hand was her 6-year-old’s math test.  On the top of it was written, “Topic 2, 45%”. On the bottom, were the words, “Copyright @ Pearson Education.”   After I got over my horror that a first-grader would take a multiple-choice test with a percent-based grade, I started to look at the questions.

The test provides insight into why New York State parents are up in arms about testing and the Common Core. With mom’s permission, I posted the test here.  Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says “part I know,” and then a full coffee cup labeled with a “6″ and, under it, the word, “Whole.” Students are asked to find “the missing part”  from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking.  How could pennies be a part of a cup?

Then there is Question No. 12.  Would (or should) a 6 year old understand the question, “Which is a related subtraction sentence?”  My nephew’s wife, who teaches Calculus, was stumped by that one.  Finally, think about the level of sophistication required to answer the multiple-choice question in No. 8 which asks students to “Circle the number sentence that is true” from a list of four.

Keep in mind that many New York State first graders are still 5 years old at the beginning of October, when this test was given.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Americans Are Sick of Standardized Tests

Yesterday I reported at Caffeinated Thoughts on the Gallup/PDK poll that showed only 1-out-of-3 Americans knew anything about the Common Core State Standards.  Not surprising really, well actually the surprising aspect is that it is that high.  Only 45% of public school parents knew – and it is being implemented in their school!  This blows a hole in the common talking point from Common Core advocates that this was a transparent process.

Valarie Strauss at The Washington Post today pointed out that in the same poll Americans say they are also sick of high-stakes standardized testing.  In 2012 a majority approved of them.

*Fewer than 25 percent of those polled believe increased standardized testing has helped the performance of local public schools.

*Fifty-eight percent of Americans polled reject using student scores from standardized tests to evaluate teachers, a big initiative of reformers.

What happened?  The Common Core happened.

Are the Common Core Tests Worth the Price?

As many have predicted the major initial fallback we were going to see with the Common Core State Standards are with the tests and their costs.

From the Answer Sheet blog by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post, an excerpt:

On Monday, the 21-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, announced how much it would cost for the Core-aligned test: $29.50 a student for summative math and reading tests. More than half of the states in the consortium now pay less for their current assessment tests. When officials in Georgia heard the numbers, they pulled out of the consortium, given that they now spend a total of $12 a student for math and reading tests. (They also cited concerns about having the technology to give all the tests to all students on computer.) Oklahoma left PARCC too.

The other consortium, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, had released funding information this past spring, offering two options: $22.50 per student for summative tests and $27.30 percent for summative as well as formative and interim tests. It said that two-thirds of the consortium states now pay more for testing. However, the two consortia — funded collectively by the Obama administration with some $350 million — are not offering identical services; for example, PARCC promises to score the exams for each state, while Smarter Balanced would have states do it for themselves. There may be other costs associated with these exams, which are supposed to be ready for the 2014-15 school year.

So how good will these new exams be? It is important to remember how these tests were initially portrayed and what they will wind up delivering.

Strauss reports that these tests are not even advanced as originally touted.  She also reports that the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education said that another generation of tests will be needed.

I think we can expect that to cost even more money yet.

Are they worth the price?  I don’t think so.

Is the Common Core in Trouble?

That is a question asked by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.  She writes:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently met with Chamber of Commerce leaders and urged them to be more vocal and forceful in defending the Common Core State Standards. Why?

Duncan made the appeal, which was reported by Education Week, because the initiative — a set of common standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia designed to raise student achievement — has come under such withering attack in recent months that what once seemed like a major policy success for the Obama administration now looks troubled.

A handful of states (including Indiana, Alabama, South Dakota and Georgia) are either pulling back or considering it, and core supporters fear more states will too.  A growing number of educators are complaining that states have done a poor job implementing the standards and are pushing core-aligned tests on students too early. And parents have started a campaign to “opt” their children out of the Common Core-aligned high-stakes standardized tests.

She then mentions the RNC resolution  which helped resurrect an Alabama bill,  See also mentioned Senator Grassley’s move to defund the Common Core and that it has bipartisan opposition.

Just today the Michigan House just voted to defund the Common Core.  The Indiana Senate passed a measure to slow down the implementation (twice actually!).  The Indiana House and Governor Mike Pence are under pressure to act.

All of this must have lead the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to act with this smear campaign for a blog post.

Two moms from Indianapolis, a handful of their friends and a couple dozen small but vocal Tea Party groups. That’s the entire Indiana movement that is advocating for a halt to the Common Core State Standards. No educational backgrounds. No track record of supporting education reforms or any other past education issues. And worst of all: A demonstrated willingness to say just about anything, no matter how unsubstantiated or blatantly false, to advocate their cause.

Meanwhile, the policy that they are attacking was implemented by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, then State Superintendent Tony Bennett, the Indiana Education Roundtable and the State Board of Education. To date, 45 other states have also adopted it. Common Core has been supported by superintendents, school boards, Indiana’s Catholic and other private schools, principals, teachers unions, the Indiana PTA, various education reform groups, higher education and more. The business community is actively engaged, including strong support from the Indiana Chamber, Eli Lilly, Cummins, Dow AgroSciences, IU Health and many others.

Can you say elitist snob?  Perhaps many educators are not speaking out because they are encouraged told not to.  They also fail to mention the person who unseated Tony Bennett – Glenda Ritz – has stated opposition to the Common Core.

Also I’d love to know exactly what they claim to be blatantly false?  See we are pretty good at referencing our claims about the Common Core.  Those who advocate for it, not so much.

Also while we are on the subject of truth then the Indiana Chamber of Commerce should tell the truth about who is funding the Common Core and the reviews of it – the Gates Foundation.

Sad.  The Common Core is in trouble and Arne Duncan, and it would seem the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, are getting desperate.

Education Reform Protests See Growth

An interesting post by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post’s education blog, The Answer Sheet.  Strauss notes the increasing number of protests against standardized testing.  She wrote:

It is too early to call it a full-fledged revolt; Washington D.C. has yet to see tens of thousands of people marching through the streets against high-stakes standardized testing, which has been prominent in American education for a decade and is at the core of the Obama administration’s school accountability efforts.

But opposition is clearly growing, most prominently over “value-added” teacher evaluation models that purport to measure how much “value” a teacher adds to a student’s academic progress by using a complicated formula involving a student’s standardized test score.

Researchers have repeatedly warned that this evaluation method is not reliable — and doesn’t take into account all of the out-of-school reasons that could affect how a student does on a test — but the Obama administration has pushed it and states have been adopting new teacher accountability systems that are heavily weighted to test scores.

She notes protests in specifically in Texas, New York and California, but it is likely that it will grow.