Archive for April 2014
Supporters of the Common Core standards frequently make the claim that the standards are rigorous, reflect college-readiness, and have been internationally benchmarked and are, therefore, comparable with standards of high-achieving nations. A new study, however, challenges these claims.
Since five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign an attestation form stating they agreed with these claims, and the report was released with 24 signatures and no mention of the five members who refused to sign it, the validity of the claims of Common Core advocates is highly questionable.
Ze’ev Wurman, a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and former senior policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Education, is the author of “Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House,” published by the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute.
Wurman observes that no member of the Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language, and only one had a doctorate in mathematics. Furthermore, only three members had any extensive experience writing standards, and two of those three refused to sign off on the Common Core standards.“Since all 50 states have had standards for a decade or more, there is a pool of people out there experienced in writing English and math standards,” said Wurman. “It’s unclear why so few of them were tapped for the Common Core Validation Committee.”
“Since all 50 states have had standards for a decade or more, there is a pool of people out there experienced in writing English and math standards,” said Wurman. “It’s unclear why so few of them were tapped for the Common Core Validation Committee.”
Wurman describes two studies conducted by Validation Committee members, who signed off on the Common Core standards in 2010, and then later attempted to find post factoevidence to justify their decisions. In both studies, the research was poorly executed and failed to provide evidence that the standards are internationally competitive and reflective of college-readiness.
One such validation study was performed by David Conley in 2011, whose research claims to demonstrate that Common Core’s college-readiness standards do lead to adequate preparation for college. However, as Wurman observes, Conley’s study fails to ask the key question: “Do the college readiness standards reflect a sufficient level of preparation for college coursework?”
Wurman asserts that rather than demonstrate whether the Common Core standards reflected college-ready knowledge and skills, Conley’s 2011 study asked teachers of college freshman about the relevance of the Common Core to their coursework. Conley’s study, Wurman notes, fraught with methodological problems, nevertheless concluded that the Common Core standards are aligned with college requirements.
One of the studies cited by Wurman was conducted by William Schmidt, Common Core Validation Committee member and Michigan State University educational statistician. Schmidt and a colleague explored whether Common Core math standards are comparable to those in the highest-performing nations and the outcomes that might be reasonably expected after Common Core implementation.
As Wurman describes, even after Schmidt and his colleague rearranged the Common Core concepts in an order that made them appear more like the math standards in high-performing countries, there was less than 60 percent congruence between the two. The researchers found no correlation between student achievement and the states that use math standards most similar to Common Core.
Schmidt’s research methodology, however, was so irregular that he and his colleague wrote that they estimate congruence “in a novel way…coupled with several assumptions.” The researchers admit as well that their analyses “should be viewed as only exploratory…merely suggesting the possibility of a relationship.” Nevertheless, their final conclusion does not reflect such caution.
In addition, Wurman revealed incorrect coding in Schmidt’s study, and examples of Common Core concepts introduced in high school that were listed as being taught in seventh grade.
James Milgram, professor of mathematics at Stanford University and the only member of the Common Core Validation Committee with a doctorate in mathematics, asserted that Common Core is two years behind the math standards in the highest-performing nations.In addition, Milgram wrote that Common Core fails to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers.
Wurman told Breitbart News:
Of all the questionable and problematic elements that I have described in my study, I found the glossed-over re-arrangement of the TIMSS topic progression for the Common Core to be the most offensive. Schmidt & Houang repeated references to TIMSS topics “shape resemblance” to that of Common Core as an indication of Common Core’s focus and coherence, when they knew full well that they artificially and incoherently re-arranged Common Core topics precisely to get such superficial visual resemblance, cannot be simply excused as sloppy research. It must have been done with an intent to mislead.
That the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association chose to publish such paper speaks volumes about what still passes for “research” in education.
Wurman’s research is consistent with another recent study published by the Brookings Institution which found that the Common Core standards will have “little to no impact on student achievement.”
Brookings’ 2014 Brown Center report revealed that states whose standards were less like Common Core performed better on national assessments than those states that had standards more like Common Core.
“Supporters of the Common Core argue that strong, effective implementation of the standards will sweep away such skepticism by producing lasting, significant gains in student learning,” states the Brown Center report. “So far, at least–and it is admittedly the early innings of a long ballgame–there are no signs of such an impressive accomplishment.”
Wurman’s study has far-reaching implications, since Common Core supporters continually articulate the claims the research refutes.
Writing at The Daily Beast on Monday, for example, Charles Upton Sahm bemoans the fact that the Common Core standards are getting “pummeled left and right.” He argues that Common Core is an “historic opportunity to provide American students with a more rigorous, content-rich, cohesive K-12 education,” despite the fact that there is no research to support these claims.
Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, observes that Common Core’s weak foundation was the result of the standards’ enmeshment in nontransparent political schemes from their inception.
“From the start, advocates did their best to keep Common Core out of the public eye, even as the so-called ‘internationally benchmarked’ standards lost the support of the Validation Committee’s most highly qualified members — the only ones with proven experience developing high academic standards,” Stergios told Breitbart News. “This study shows that after the fact proponents have no analytic basis to continue to call Common Core standards high quality, internationally benchmarked, or research based.”
“That’s why Common Core supporters rarely debate its merits in public and, instead, prefer to use their stable of DC lobbyists and PR firms to obscure its academic deficiencies,” Stergios said.
In a recent essay in the Economists’ Voice Edward Lazear and James Poterba of the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform wrote the following:
“Given the political process that determines the tax code, special provisions are likely to depend more on an interest group’s lobbying efforts than on careful estimates of social externalities or other considerations.”
What does that mean?
On a local level it means that county and city elected officials have bowed to the demands of a rent-seeking interest group, The Chamber of Commerce. These participants are fabricating a financial crisis to pressure the middleclass into passing a “leveling the playing field” new regressive Use Tax. The Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner said on August 20, 2013, “But we shouldn’t support rules that incentivize you to go spend your money in other states.” He is absolutely correct. Using a tax to dictate individual behavior is always a horrific choice. The Use Tax will take away the rights of the middleclass to dispose of their property as they see fit without intrusion from government.
One can always support local businesses by disregarding the tax consequences and buy local. And that is the way a free market system should work. Local governments must seek ways to raise revenue for necessary programs without interfering with the free market.
On April 8th, the citizens of Jackson, Cape Girardeau and Cape Girardeau County will have the opportunity to delay this “Washingtonian mentality” of social engineering by voting AGAINST the Use Tax.
By David McGeney
‘Just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”
Those words, uttered by George Castanza on “Seinfeld,” are perhaps the most generous explanation I can imagine for the numerous and utterly false assertions made by Mitchell Chester in “Building a better assessment,” (“As I See It, Telegram & Gazette, April 2), in which he praised the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.
It’s important to understand, for starters, that in addition to his role as the Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education, Mr. Chester is also serving his third term as national chair of the PARCC Governing Board. This hardly makes him an objective evaluator of PARCC during this sham of a so-called “two-year test drive.”
Here are just two untruths stated by Mr. Chester:
— “PARCC provides a solid bridge from K-12 to higher education.”
— “It offers a much clearer understanding of whether a student is ready for college”
There is absolutely zero evidence to support these statements. By Mr. Chester’s own admission, PARRC is not even a finished product, so how could any thoughtful person assert that this “untested test” will definitively do what is claimed?
An important question for one to ask is, “How do Massachusetts Schools currently measure up?”
According to The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Massachusetts has led all other states in achievement for an unprecedented five testing cycles in a row. Sixty-three percent of Massachusetts high school students go on directly to college, compared with 55 percent nationwide, putting us in the top tier of states.
A recent Harvard University study found that if Massachusetts was its own country, its students perform on the same level as some of the most educated countries in the world.
And the Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI), which measures how high school students are performing in physics and calculus, on Advanced Placement scores, and teacher certification requirements, shows that Massachusetts blows away the competition when compared with other U.S. states.
With this in mind, here’s a question I’d like to see on every student’s PARCC test:
“If Massachusetts had a set of standards, a proven test and curriculum that had propelled students to best in the nation status for five straight years and would cost other states $0 to adopt and the federal government had an untested standard, an untested test and an untested curriculum that cost the taxpayers $4.3 billion (the actual amount already spent in Race to the Top Grants), which one would make the most sense for underperforming states to try first?”
Massachusetts, because of our #1 status, has the least to gain and the most to lose by substituting the “theoretically” better Common Core for the irrefutably successful MCAS.
It’s unimaginable that any rational person could even consider such a shift without the empirical evidence showing that it would guarantee a better result. The near-fanaticism of Common Core proponents in the absence of such proof raises profound questions.
It’s worth reminding people that The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 was years in the making. Its metal was forged from the heat of numerous and spirited public debates; a process that is in striking contrast to the origins of Common Core which burst onto the scene from the underbelly of reticent Washington think tanks.
Ironically, the landmark legislation of education reform and the subsequent decades of improvement in student achievement can never again be possible when the copyright-protected language of Common Core becomes the law of the land.
Changes in the world, which would once have taken generations, now occur overnight.
The education institutions that will be of greatest service to its student are those that are most agile. Shifting the responsibility of public education to Washington all but guarantees we will be slow to adapt, assuming it would be capable of any worthwhile modifications at all.
There’s one thing upon which people on either side of the issue will agree. The adoption of Common Core and the federalizing of public education will be, for better or worse, the greatest change of that institution in our country’s history.
What is most troubling to me is that almost no one knows anything about it. It is my firm belief that this runaway train called Common Core has far less to do with education than it does with the colossal build-up of the “Educational Industrial Complex” from which obscene profits and unbridled-power shall be amassed.
I encourage everyone to learn more, before it’s too late.
David McGeney is a member of the Peabody School Committee.
The president and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, said … “they instead should buy from local businesses and pay the same amount in taxes.”
Judge Learned Hand said, “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.”
And the citizens of Cape Girardeau County, Cape Girardeau and Jackson agreed with the judge this past Tuesday, April 8th.