Thursday, July 12, 2012

Common Core State Standards - The precursor to testing the crap out of kids

Educators are becoming more and more familiar with and learning about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  What they might not realize is that CCSS is really code for constantly testing the crap out of kids. As a result the publishers and politicians who designed them reap the rewards. Politicians have pretty charts and numbers they can use as talking points and publishers like Pearson rake in enormous profits

Meanwhile these same politicians and publishers have been yapping about how the new standards and assessments will be so much different and better.  Some had visions 
dancing in their heads of standards that were customized to student who would choose their own way to demonstrate mastery.  

Then poof!

Reality hits. The dreams shot down. 

I was perusing the EngageNY site which is a teaching and learning clearinghouse designed to support New York teachers, principals, administrators, and Network Teams in rolling out the Common Core State Standards. It is there that I learned they just released the sample questions for ELA and Math. Kids will be asked to show mastery so they can progress to the next grade.  I looked at these tests and thought, dang, I'm glad I'm not in school. 

Here's a snippet of each:

Excerpt of the reading passage:
No persuasions or enticements could overcome her fear, till, the fact coming to Mr. Laurence’s ear in some mysterious way, he set about mending matters. 

Example of a math question:
A trainer for a professional football team keeps track of the amount of water players consume throughout practice. The trainer observes that the amount of water consumed is a linear function of the temperature on a given day. The trainer finds that when it is 90°F the players consume about 220 gallons of water, and when it is 76°F the players consume about 178 gallons of water.

Part A: Write a linear function to model the relationship between the gallons of water consumed and the temperature.
Part B: Explain the meaning of the slope in the context of the problem.     

I couldn't answer the questions on the math test the way that was expected nor had any of this math ever been necessary for my success in life.  I looked at the ELA test and thought, wow, a whole generation of kids will forever have the joy of reading sucked right out of them (read #6 for Alfie Kohn's thoughts).

Then I had a few more thoughts like...
  • Why are we taking the job of assessment from the ongoing work of teachers and handing it over to publishers? Some will say that's because we can't trust them. If that's the case, figure out a way to fix that rather than spend BILLIONS on these tests and stress out kids. I mean do we really trust the politicians and publishers that are imposing these tests upon us more than teachers anyhow?
  • Why is all assessment a test?There are such better ways to assess students and it should be done as a part of what kids do in the classroom.
  • Why does everyone need to know the same thing?I don't know or want to know this math and I'm doing just fine. 
  • Why is the ELA language so dang white and who talks like that today?Why not allow students to respond to passages that they've already chosen to read that are meaningful, relevant, and/or of interest to their worlds?
  • Why aren't more parents opting their kids out of testing?
    You can opt out in most states.  There's a group on Facebook for each state. Find yours in one of two ways:
    1) Type in the search on Facebook: Opt out of State Standardized Tests - Your State
     i.e. Opt Out of State Standardized Tests - Ohio

    2) Go to the page url: i.e.
This sucks. Kids deserve better.  What will we do about it?


  1. If the Common Core State Standards are to be assessed by the type of sample questions you give here, there could be no better example of the intellectual disaster that would be created by teaching to these "standards". In the "math" example, one might suppose what they are looking for is the equation for a straight line. Drawing (or equating) two (rectilinear) points to a straight line is trivial. However, two points do NOT make for a linear function. Moreover, assuming there was some correlation that approximated a linear function, it's validity over a range of values would be highly suspect; extrapolating to 0oF for example. Introducing the (concept of a) function in this context would confuse Einstein (in fact, it probably did). Without addressing these issues, either in the question itself, or teaching to the question (God forbid), there would be a serious dissonance in critical thinking for some number of students. Others may readily accept it (ouch!). That "a professional football team trainer" "observes" a "linear function" suggests this is some sort of "fact". Really? Did he also measure relative humidity? Average nutritional status of the players? Over what range did "he observe" this "linear function"? What temperature was the water? Just what "model" does our "linear function" describe? And, does it serve any real purpose in this example?
    Joy of reading? This "cute" math problem - and any "teaching" behind it, would suck out the joy of thinking.

  2. Actually, the best possible result from that math question would be all the students answering that there is no possible answer because the question makes invalid assumptions and is otherwise preposterous.

    Unfortunately, many teachers are no more capable of critical thinking than the legislators who supported this common nationwide express train to mediocrity.

  3. These questions are horrible!

  4. I agree that these questions are absurd. What is even more absurd however is the fact that the solution to a problem of uneducated youth is to put them into the smallest of boxes. Where is creativity in any of these tests. They do not take into consideration that human beings have different learning styles and different ways of seeing the world. We don't teach students to be thinkers anymore we teach them to test takers. Therefore, if you can figure out how to succeed at these tests you rise to the top. If you can't than you are considered a low performer. What kind of crap is that to lay on students? With all these educated people making all these major decisions about education you would think it would have been figured out by now. The problem those "educated" people were probably the ones that fit inside the box and did exceptionally well. So to them this is the only way to learn. Meanwhile, there are some really creative and intelligent people that actually work with students that know that you cannot standardize education there are too many non standard deviations!

  5. USA's literacy levels have dropped since 'no child left behind' (look at how much america and other countries have dropped in international tests since formal testing and 'teaching to the test' has been brought in, it isn't just USA but other countries that have also implemented this kind of education system) and the way to remedy this problem is to bring testing down to kindergarten children?

    It makes no sense to me. Would like someone to explain it. I am confused. Where is the love of learning? Where is the wondering how and why? Creating followers not thinkers (which I predict is needed in this century) Am I alone in this believe?

  6. Common Core is very very bad for this country\

    wake up people