Thursday, March 11, 2010

They're here... The Common Core Standards - Available for Comment

They're here...

This was five-year-old Carol Anne's ominous announcement made at her parents' home while starring into a static television when referring to the presence of unknown beings in her home. Their antics, benign at first, such as moving and stacking the kitchen table chairs soon turn quite disturbing as Poltergeist fans can attest. Like the unknown beings in the movie, the newly released draft of the Common Core Standards have had a ghostly presence to the masses who have seen pictures of Governors linked in arms with smiles on their faces as they unite to support the release of standards for a nation. While I do agree the premise of having international or at least national standards, makes sense, I do have concerns that these at first benign, perhaps even good-intention-seeming standards must be treated with EXTREME caution.

I shared my primary fears around these standards last October in my post All Children Left Behind - Common Standards for Our Student's Past. My concerns presented themselves again yesterday as a DOE official shared with a gleam in his eye that The Common Core Standards draft had been released and this was going to mean a whole new era of even more rigorous assessments for our students.


What concerns me as I heard these words is not the standards, but the man behind the curtain, or the screen if you will. Though most of America never has never taken a peak, many who have are scared. As Chris Lehmann shared in his blog last fall, "This Core Standards movement should scare everyone who believes that meaning and learning is still most powerfully made in the spaces that students and teachers share. More than teachers, students, or state administrators, the group that stands most to gain from national standards and a national test is the education-industrial complex.

At the same time, Tom Hoffman shares in his blog, "We are inviting testing companies to determine the future of our schools with virtually no accountability or public input. These standards were developed by two testing companies, the College Board and ACT, with help from a nebulous non-profit, Achieve, Inc. No high performing educational system in the world would consider giving testing companies this much control over their standards and curriculum. It is absurd. He also shares that many standards were selected because they are easier and cheaper to score reliably on a standardized test. 

To get a clear picture of what this really looked like, here is the list of the working group for the language arts standards.  Notice the representation of testing companies (most) verses K-12 teachers (are there any?) verses students (what students?).

  • Sara Clough, Director, Elementary and Secondary School Programs, Development, Education Division, ACT, Inc.
  • David Coleman, Founder, Student Achievement Partners
  • Sally Hampton, Senior Fellow for Literacy, America's Choice
  • Joel Harris, Director, English Language Arts Curriculum and Standards, Research and Development, The College Board
  • Beth Hart, Senior Assessment Specialist, Research and Development, The College Board
  • John Kraman, Associate Director, Research, Achieve
  • Laura McGiffert Slover, Vice President, Content and Policy Research, Achieve
  • Nina Metzner, Senior Test Development Associate—Language Arts, Elementary and Secondary School Programs, Development, Education Division, ACT, Inc.
  • Sherri Miller, Assistant Vice President, Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) Development, Education Division, ACT, Inc.
  • Sandy Murphy, Professor Emeritus, University of California – Davis
  • Jim Patterson, Senior Program Development Associate—Language Arts, Elementary and Secondary School Programs, Development, Education Division, ACT, Inc.
  • Sue Pimentel, Co-Founder, StandardsWork; English Language Arts Consultant, Achieve
  • Natasha Vasavada, Senior Director, Standards and Curriculum Alignment Services, Research and Development, The College Board
  • Martha Vockley, Principal and Founder, VockleyLang, LLC

I personally spoke to a prolifically published author, esteemed expert, and valued contributor to other literacy policy documents who shared that she too was concerned by the choice to leave her and other accomplished pedagogues out of the conversation.

As I jumped over to take a look quick look at the standards, I was already perplexed. What were previously English Language Arts are now Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science. Huh??? What on earth does that mean? Did they just try to lump everything together? Anyhow, a deeper dive is indeed in order and I'm interested to hear and read what other EDUCATORS and hopefully STUDENTS have to say. I was pleased to see there was a way to Submit Feedback on the site and I encourage teachers, and principals to do so, and to help their students do so as well. An improvement to the feedback submission process would be full transparency and enabling the public to see the feedback blog style of one other. They are here for sure, and the secret ballot-style request for feedback where ghost-like contributors who can't see one another until the edited, censored results are shared, frightens me.

Washington Post Coverage


  1. workgroup correctionMarch 11, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    The workgroup listed above was for the document published in the summer, which was a definition of college and career readiness in ELA. Say what you want about the test-industrial complex, College Board and ACT are two organizations with a lot of data about college success and job placement outcomes.

    But the reason I am commenting is to point out that the workgroups changed for the K-12 project. They got much bigger and included many more teachers and people from the states. The list of workgroup members in math and ELA is here: You will see many esteemed experts here and valued contributors to other policy documents.

    See also this from the American Federation of Teachers:

  2. I find it interesting that there is grave concern for feeding the "education testing complex" but no real outcry against what I would dub the "corporate America complex" represented by the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, etc. At least the ed testing biz isn't driven by pop culture or Madison Avenue, two entities that are far more potentially damaging to kids' minds than some bubble tests. The ed testing biz doesn't teach kids to be crass lifetime consumerists and materialists. It also doesn't teach the "buy more, be happy" mantra, either.

    As long as ed standards are arrived at via scientifically based research, then what's the problem with them?

  3. I was worried that these would be fact oriented, so I'm relieved to see it's skills. Now, if they left it alone, shook hands and called it a day, that would be great. I'd rather take this list as a Specialist in my county and show my teachers what they should expect from their students, and then let them implement it. As soon as another organization or governmental body wants to use it as an assessment tool, I'd like to show them out the door.

  4. I think broadening the pool of the contributors to the K-12 grade level standards has in some ways made the process even worse. They're poorly aligned to the "college and career ready standards" that they're supposed to lead to, and they show the clear signs of stuffing bits in to please political constituents -- for example, to buy the support of Core Knowledge.

    These standards aren't based on "scientifically based research." They aren't internationally benchmarked, in ELA at least, they aren't anything like other "common" standards in use in the US.

  5. I have researched the Common Core Standards and I believe that they will be very beneficial to the Public School Systems of America. They set standards that why College Freshman all go into school knowing the same thing. We adapted a new math program for next year based off of the Common Core Standards.