Friday, February 13, 2015

Ed-Blogging My Way to Unpopularity

Quick hit on this post by Diane Ravitchfrom a Facebook comment that got so long I realized it was almost an essay. 
Other writers have said
and from what I've seen as a math tutor and husband to a CPS classroom teacher, I concur that one of the biggest problems with Common Core and its associated "assessments" (irony quotes because the instruments & implementation are so flawed that it's arguable they're not effectively measuring anything) is that it was built "from the top down."
In political terms, of course, it's the idea of a federally mandated national curriculum: an illegal, unconstitutional power play that's been advanced and defended with the specious argument that the states must "voluntarily" adopt the standards (in much the same way they "voluntarily" raised the legal drinking age to 21, 
for example, when threatened with a shutoff of federal highway funding if they didn't).
The second piece is that the standards and assessments themselves are derived *NOT* from a core "basic skills" approach, i.e. building up from kindergarten onward based on education research of child cognitive development, but rather by setting the bar for an "adequate" high school graduate skill level from a best-case, exceptionally gifted, college-bound scenario; and then projecting backward to previous grade levels from there. So the metrics for learning "at level" were pushed up one or two grade levels for every grade to "catch up" lower-achieving students with the career-and-college-ready golden boys and girls (who IRL have innumerable advantages outside the classroom that account for high achievement regardless of whatever newfangled texts & tests Pearson et alia sell to their school district customer/hostages this year). The obvious pedagogical and statistical problems with this approach were just steamrolled with so much paternalistic bluster about "demanding excellence, no excuses," etc.
regarding students who in many cases struggle for daily security & survival, mind you, and don't have mental capacity to spare for bootstrapping ahead two entire grade levels, let alone thinking realistically about college. 
So in practice, it works out like this: 1) Move the goalposts so that "excellent" is now "average" and formerly "average" is considered "failing" (even down to bumping up percentages required for class A's and B's to 93% and 87% respectively and so on); 2) Administer assessments devised with a similarly opaque, unaccountable process to students who roll their eyes at bubble tests because they're now seeing one practically every week (Teacher/admin: "It's serious this time!" Student: "So what? You've been crying wolf about taking these tests 'seriously' for so long that now it's just background noise, like mom's nagging to clean my room."); 3) When the majority of students predictably "fail" these rigged and poorly written assessments, use the resulting "data" to condemn students, teachers, and schools to punishment, firings, turnovers and/or closures; 4) PROFIT!
for charters, publishers, and miscellaneous ed-industry entrepreneurs benefiting from this application of disaster capitalism to the public school system.
Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Who else is thinking that homeschooling looks pretty attractive these days?

[Grand, sweeping tip o' the hat to veteran teacher and education blogger Peter Greene at Curmudgucation, whom I leaned on pretty heavily for links above.]