Sunday, May 12, 2013

Test Your Common Core Savvy

The “Common Core” standards are now being imposed on schools around the country. This regimen is the latest phase of the corporate assault on public education, orchestrated by multibillionaires like Bill Gates, imposed by the Obama White House and carried out by a handful of “educational” monopolies (Pearson, McGraw Hill, College Board). On April 6, Class Struggle Education Workers in New York held a workshop in New York City on “Common Core: Privatization and Regimentation of Public Education.” The lead speaker, Charles Brover, gave a “test" illustrating what the Common Core is all about. The test was inspired by and adapted from “Test Your Public Ed Savvy,” by Susan Ohanian and Stephen Krashen, The Progressive (magazine), January 26, 2013.* Take the test below, click on the answers (with explanatory notes) and raise your Common Core Savvy.

TEST YOUR COMMON CORE SAVVY

Multiple-choice test. Choose an answer and click on it.
  1. According to the Common Core mission statement, with implementation of the Standards “our communities will be best positioned”
    1. to provide greater educational equity.
    2. to provide greater educational access.
    3. to compete successfully in the global economy.
    4. to expand and activate civic participation.
    5. to enhance students’ intellectual development.
  2. Common Core Standards were developed because
    1. parents worry that U.S. children score far below other countries on international tests.
    2. teachers lack the skills to craft adequate curriculum and wanted help.
    3. state departments of education asked for them.
    4. of grass-roots concern that children need special tools to compete in the Global Economy.
    5. the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid for them.
  3. Who said, “people don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”
    1. Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy
    2. Donald Trump, real estate mogul, TV star
    3. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City
    4. Don Rickles, insult comedian
    5. David Coleman, architect of the Common Core Standards
  4. What makes Common Core Standards different from all other educational standards?
    1. All other standards fail to provide guidance for teachers and curriculum developers.
    2. All other standards are a hodge-podge without evidence-based assessment.
    3. All other standards lack sufficient academic rigor.
    4. All other standards are not enforced by a national testing regime.
    5. All other standards overvalue non-informational texts.
  5. U.S. international test scores aren't at the top of the world because
    1. we lack common standards and valid tests.
    2. many teachers are not doing their job.
    3. nearly 25% of American children live in poverty.
    4. American children are not interested in hard study.
    5. parents don't take an interest in children's education.
  6. The new online feature of Common Core testing
    1. will reduce administration costs.
    2. will streamline student evaluation.
    3. offers new opportunities for creativity.
    4. will lead to more individualized learning.
    5. means students will be tested many more times each year.
  7. After taking the most recent New York State tests aligned to the Common Core Standards, an upstate 8th grader, Sophia, created her own test with items based on her letter, titled, “Dear New York State:” In her letter she writes:
    1. Thank you so much for the state test. How else could I know how I am doing in school? This multiple choice test really gives me a chance to exhibit deep learning and critical thinking.
    2. When I take a state test, I feel I am at my best. I am so focused. I welcome the pressure and stress; so do my teachers and family. Some additional neuro-enhancing drugs can also help.
    3. When I take a state test, I am not myself. I feel as if I need to do everything the way the state thinks it should be. There is only one way to do these tests: your way.
    4. When I take a state test, I feel really confident and happy because I know that there is always one right answer to every question. In this crazy, mixed up world, it’s good to know that someone is in charge. I love your state!
    5. We need tougher standards, and a better way to excel on the tests based on them. When I take a state test, I always think that my teacher didn’t prepare me for this or that question. You can’t trust teachers or schools. Let’s have the test-makers educate us directly. BTW I own a computer and a smart phone. This can work!
  8. Who said Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans. That education system was a disaster."
    1. Rush Limbaugh
    2. Pat Robertson
    3. Editor at The Onion
    4. Bill O'Reilly
    5. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
  9. While extolling the benefits of standardized testing, Obama and the billionaire reformers send their own children to private schools not dominated by testing because
    1. they don’t really like their own children and only want what’s best for others.
    2. they are not interested in knowing about the intellectual development of their children.
    3. they don’t care about the effectiveness of their children’s teachers.
    4. they think the tests will detract from the excellence of their children’s education.
    5. at these prices, they don’t need tests to know the schools are damn good.
  10. “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” This is a Common Core Mathematics Standard for grade:
    1. K
    2. 1
    3. 2
    4. 3
    5. 4
  11. When Kentucky tried to pilot a Common Core aligned curriculum, proficiency rates
    1. went up 5%
    2. went down 30%
    3. went down 10%
    4. went up 10%
    5. stayed about the same
  12. What is the most likely effect of the Common Core Standards on student achievement?
    1. U.S. students will outperform students in Finland and Singapore on international math tests.
    2. The racial achievement gap will be narrowed, finally.
    3. No effect other than massive cheating, increased tears, family stress, and perhaps with regard to the math tests, some prayer in public schools.
    4. Students will achieve competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
    5. More students will be college and career ready.
  13. Who among the following educators does NOT support the Common Core Standards?
    1. Linda Darling Hammond
    2. Howard Gardner
    3. Jeffrey Wilhelm
    4. E.D. Hirsch
    5. Randi Weingarten
  14. Children who live in poverty in the U.S.
    1. are protected by a comprehensive social welfare safety net.
    2. need a very structured curriculum.
    3. are more likely to attend a school with poorly supported libraries than are middle-class children.
    4. have the same chance for school success as other students-if their parents support education.
    5. need vouchers to attend better schools
  15. A notable feature of education in Finland, the country scoring highest on international tests, is:
    1. universal pre-school emphasizes an early start in skill development.
    2. children in grade school have a play break every 45 minutes.
    3. a system of annual national standardized tests informs teachers of every child's skill attainment.
    4. there are no teacher unions to cripple reform.
    5. corporate leaders have taken a leadership role in school policy.
STOP! DO NOT GO ON! DO NOT TAKE A PLAY BREAK!
CHECK YOUR ANSWERS ON THE “ANSWER SHEET” BELOW.

ANSWER SHEET
  1. C is correct. The final sentence of the mission statement of the Common Core Standards: “With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

    Answers A, B, D and E are important purposes of education, but the Common Core initiative represents a chauvinist, competitive distortion of those purposes. For an even scarier, openly militaristic justification of support to the Common Core, see U.S. Education Reform and National Security (2012) by Murdoch exec and former NYC corporate educational reform raider, Joel Klein and “mushroom cloud” imperialist war monger, Condoleezza Rice (not such an odd couple, after all). Along with the Common Core Standards and testing, they also propose a periodic “National Security Audit” because public schools “constitute a very grave national security threat facing this nation.” It is not a giant step from thinking about our children as “human capital” (rather than human beings) and widgets to thinking about them as human drones.
  2. E is correct. See “Is the Gates Foundation Involved in bribery,” July 23, 2010.

    The Gates Foundation gave more than a hundred million dollars to the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors association (“JoLLE Forum — Rotten to the (Common) Core,” Nov. 1, 2012) — the two main organizations charged with drafting and promoting the Common Core. The Common Core Initiative is a key part of the “reformers’” market-based strategy to denigrate and close public schools, bust and marginalize unions and make way for charters, vouchers and privatization. Answer B is a false claim given as another rationale for the Common Core. “Reformers” undermine the professional expertise of teachers, particularly career teachers who have devoted their lives to the profession. The “reformers” instead idolize the Teach for America model where Ivy League hotshots teach for a couple years, enhance their resum├ęs, and then go off to their real jobs, often — as in the case TFA graduate Michelle Rhee — to the lucrative education reform business. Answers A, C, and D are also untrue
  3. E is correct. David Coleman in a speech to New York State educators in Albany, April 2011 disparaging personal writing.

    He went on to say, “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood’.” If we subject this statement to the “close reading” Coleman favors, we may notice his use of the word, “people.” The “people” who “don’t give a shit” turn out to be our bosses, and education is understood as making “Johnson” a useful, compliant worker. If we extend the critique beyond a close reading, we may want to ask about David Coleman’s problem with his childhood. Answers A, B, C and D are wrong although any of these figures could have said it on another occasion.
  4. D is correct. – (This is our Passover question.) It is all about the testing. The tests will be used for everything—to determine outcomes for students, funding for schools and districts, and to be a big part of teacher evaluation determining pay. Educators who try to divorce the Common Core Standards’ lofty language of pedagogical “practices” from the brute facts of the standardized testing are fooling themselves and/or others. CCS promoters say the standards direct “the what” but not “the how” of teaching. But the detailed descriptions of the CCS and the testing requirement for “coverage” imply a shallow curriculum and teacher-centered, direct instruction.

    Answers A, B, and C are wrong because there have been many standards documents that have engaged educators as aspirational guides to what students should be able to know and do. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (1989, 2000) of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is a good example. It offers lots of guidance for instruction and formative assessments, but no associated standardized tests. (Sadly the NCTM along with most mainstream educational organizations is now drinking the Common Core Kool-Aid.) Answer E is wrong because teachers always try to balance and blend genres; the CCS impulse to teacher-proofing results in a pointless ratio of fictional to informational text.
  5. C is correct – See “Measuring Child Poverty,” UNICEF, May 2012.

    With increasing child poverty, soaring inequality and more visible downward mobility, educational “reformers” blame public schools, teachers and their unions, parents, anything and everything but the social and economic conditions that devastate the learning opportunities of so many of our school children. Even to mention such reality-based factors exposes the critic to charges of engaging in “the soft-core bigotry of low expectations.” When you disaggregate the data on international tests such as PISA, U.S. middle class students who attend well-funded schools achieve high scores on international tests, among the highest in the world. “PISA 2009 Reading Test Results: The US does quite well, controlling for SES. And maybe American scores are ‘just right.’

    Answers B, D, and E are wrong because they are untrue, and A is a non-sequitur.
  6. E is correct. See “Common Core Assessments.” See also “How Much Testing” by Stephen Krashen, 25 July 2012.

    Online testing will also contribute to the spiraling costs that school districts cannot afford. See “Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences – Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?” It is, however, a profitable dream come true for test makers and publishers who can now address a single national market mandated to test and test again.
  7. C is correct. See Sophia’s excellent letter and test. In the same reading passage Sophia quotes Einstein’s reprove that if you “judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Sophia’s letter expresses how these tests represent a powerful authoritarian reading lesson, a frontal attack on children’s creativity and identities as learners. Answers A and B are untrue, D is insane, and E may be the right answer for Pearson Vue publishers, but 8th graders know better.
  8. E is correct. “Duncan: ‘Katrina was the best thing for New Orleans school system,’” Jan. 29, 2010. Answers A, B and D are wrong, but any of these figures could have said it, and doubtless “reformers” of every stripe cheered on the racist dismantling of the New Orleans school system. C might have said it as a parody of A, B, and D, but it was actually said by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Despite heralding the New Orleans catastrophe as an “opportunity” to usher in wholesale market-based approaches, New Orleans remains among the lowest performing districts in the low-performing state of Louisiana. Its charter schools have such a high rate of exclusion, the system has been sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  9. D is correct. Of course, we don’t really know what’s in their heads, but Obama sends his children to Sidwell Friends; Rahm Emanuel sends his to the Dewey-inspired Lab School that is explicitly opposed to these tests. While “reformer” politicians balk at “throwing money” at the public schools, they have no trouble throwing money in the direction of their own kids. They also claim (in face of robust evidence to the contrary) that class size doesn’t matter. Sidwell Friends costs about $32,000 per year. And the NYC private schools cost even more. Corporate school reformers and for-profit entrepreneurs Benno Schmidt and Chris Whittle, for instance, run the Avenues school in Chelsea. Teacher student ratio: 9 : 1. Cost $43,000 a year (New York Times, 10 July 2011). As part of education austerity and teacher speed-up, the Gates Foundation suggests stuffing even more students into public school classrooms. Answers A, B and C are probably not true, and answer E, well…
  10. A is correct. While it is possible to develop an appropriate lesson from this K standard, it is precisely its inappropriate formal character that is most likely to find its way into the kindergarten classroom—administratively imposed because of the Standards testing regime. Answers B, C, D, and E are wrong, but lessons based on this standard—particularly the formal representation of equalities—could also be suitable as lessons for students in grades beyond kindergarten. Good teachers will find ways to work around the CCS.
  11. B is correct. See http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/26/why-i-cannot-support-the-common-core-standards/. For those who believe in the “vast right wing conspiracy,” it makes one wonder if the high failure rate presumed by Common Core promoters isn’t designed to further malign the public schools and marginalize teachers unions. The reformers have been disappointed by the reluctance of middle-class, suburban parents to chuck in their public schools in favor of the reformers’ voucher and charter privatization schemes. Maybe reformers believe that if a bunch of their kids start failing, the parents will come around.
  12. C is correct. Recent research by the Brookings Institute studied the effects of the state standards on student achievement and found no effect except for a slight increase in 4th grade. See The 2012 Brown Center Report: How Well Are American Students Learning? The research report concluded: “The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.” Answers A, B, and D are untrue. E is the continuation of the false promise made for NCLB under which the achievement gap widened. The CCS is likely to do the same.
  13. B is correct. Howard Gardner is a signer of the “Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative” expressing “grave concern” about the effects of the Standards on young children, pleading for a suspension of the Standards for K – 3. Statement issued by the Alliance for Childhood, March 2, 2010. Answers A and C are untrue and indicate the extent to which liberal educators have bought the propaganda of the CCS when it comes to advancing careers and selling materials. D is wrong and to be expected of the godfather of such projects. E is wrong and dangerous because it opens up teachers’ unions to union-bashing when the CCS goes the way of NCLB but worse. Wedded as they are to the Democratic Party, neither the AFT or NEA bureaucracies are in a position to stand up to the educational “reform” policies of Obama and Duncan. Race to the Top and the CCS are a continuation and intensification of Bush-era NCLB.
  14. C is correct. See Di Loreto, C., and Tse, L. 1999. “Seeing is believing: Disparity in books in two Los Angeles area public libraries”. School Library Quarterly 17(3): 31-36; Duke, N. 2000. For the rich it’s richer: “Print experiences and environments offered to children in very low and very high-socioeconomic status first-grade classrooms”. American Educational Research Journal 37(2): 441-478; Neuman, S.B. and Celano, D. 2001. “Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods”. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26. Answers A, B, D, and E are untrue.
  15. B is correct. See “Finland Schools Flourish in Freedom and Flexibility,” The Guardian [London], 5 December 2010. Answers A, C, D and E are incorrect. “Reformers” point to high performing school systems in other countries to bash U.S. public schools, unions and teachers but fail to mention that Finnish schools, for instance, are fully public and unionized; they pay teachers better and provide more professional autonomy and development; they do not torture children with continuous standardized tests, and they do not turn over their educational system to corporate market-based “reformers.”
Score analysis:
  • 14 – 15 correct: You already know too much about this subject and are probably some kind of troublemaker. (Call us.)
  • 9 - 13 correct: You have not spent too much time reading about the Common Core Standards that won’t affect student achievement in any case.
  • 0 - 8 correct: Needs improvement. Perhaps some “value added” evaluation is in order.
*Questions 2, 5, 6, 8, 14, and 15 were taken from Ohanian and Krashen. The rest is of this test was created by the Class Struggle Education Workers (CSEW).

The CSEW is a New York City-based group of teachers, educators and unionists committed to a Marxist understanding and active, working-class defense of public education internationally. Because capitalism generates poverty, inequality, and racism, we believe that educational issues must be faced as part of a wider struggle for the emancipation of the working class and the oppressed by building a class-struggle workers party to fight for a workers government. You can contact us at cs_edworkers@hotmail.com, or edworkersunite.blogspot.com to comment on our test, write some new test items (please norm these with a cohort of radical teachers), or argue with us about our answers. (We have been known to change grades.)

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