Friday, December 13, 2013

Obamacore: The travesty called the Common Core Standards

This article is about the travesty called the Common Core Standards.  Its design began before Obama was elected but I and others refer to it as Obamacore because Obama played a major role in imposing it on the country, and like Obamacare it was passed without being read, and it involves centralized data collection of private information.  States across the U.S. signed on to Obamacore because they were bribed with stimulus funds.  As parents became aware of the changes that were made to their children's education many joined organizations to oppose it.  Many insightful and alarming critiques have been written regarding the danger of Common Core.  There are fears that Common Core is paving the way for indoctrination of American students by centralizing control of education, collecting massive amount of data on students, and telling teachers what they must and must not teach.

There are reports that scores have dropped when the Common Core was adopted and that a curriculum designed to meet the Common Core standards would only prepare students for entry level courses in nonselective community colleges.

James Milgram, the only mathematician in the Common Core validation committee , refused to sign off on the math standards.  He said that Common Core math standards would put students two years behind those of high-achieving countries.  He told the Texas state legislature that Common Core standards are, "in large measure a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results."

He said: "I had considerable influence on the mathematics standards in the document. However, as is often the case, there was input from many other sources -- including State Departments of Education -- that had to be incorporated into the standards...  A number of these sources were mainly focused on things like making the standards as non-challenging as possible. Others were focused on making sure their favorite topics were present, and handled in the way they liked."

Dr. Milgram added that it led to a number of "extremely serious failings" in the Common Core that made it premature for any state hoping to improve math scores to implement them and that the Core Math standards were designed to reflect very low expectations.  
The Common Core standards are low compared to those of high achieving countries but a study by the Thomas Fordham Institute found that the Common Core English standards are higher than those of 37 states and the math standards are higher than those of 39 states.  The reason for this is that states dumbed down their minimum standards so they could show they were meeting their standards and get No Child Left Behind money.  Previously it was easy for a school to exceed the minimum state standards.  Common Core imposes a low level curriculum on schools which dictate what to teach and what not to teach.

Why are the standards of Common Core low when the ostensible purpose of Common Core is to raise the performance of American students?  One can find the answer in a document by the American Federation of Teachers which states that one of the goals of Common Core is to "close the intolerable achievement gap between minority and non-minority students."  It's much easier to close the gap by lowering standards than to raise the performance of poorly performing students and no teacher or school administrator wants to be in the position where their jobs depend on getting students to perform.

There are ideological reasons to lower standards as well.  Common Core instructions tell teachers to "avoid giving any background context" to texts on the grounds that Common Core's close reading strategy "forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all."

The ideology reason given above is to level the playing field although the argument that leaving out background information will somehow do that is ridiculous.  Those making that argument should be going to school instead of designing a curriculum for schools.

Common Core tests do not emphasize getting the right answer.  Instead they focus on essay questions, which makes possible grading in such a way that underperforming minority groups score as well as high performing groups.

The other goal of Common Core stated by the American Federation of Teachers is to help American students compete in the global economy.  That raises the question "Is the reason for America's poor economic performance low standards?"

Is Curriculum the Cause of America's Poor Worldwide Education Rank?

You can have the best curriculum in the world but if there is no discipline you can't teach it.  A school staffer at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia told CBS that:

 "It's mayhem. Students are in the halls, they're smoking in the bathroom; cigarettes, marijuana," said a worker at the school, who asked not to be identified. "We can't contain them and it's really hazardous for us working and these kids are not being educated at all."

"It's a zoo in here. Parents really need to come up here and see what's going on in this school because it's ridiculous,"

Asian students who want to study are assaulted by blacks.  In 2010, a federal judge found that black students at South Philadelphia High School had assaulted and harassed Asian students daily -- for years but the principal said she did not call police because she did not want to "criminalize" the black students.

Laws prevent public schools from taking effective action to stop the violence.

 John Hood in an article for the Foundation of Economic Education wrote:  "A host of administrative decisions, court rulings, and legislative actions have created such a maze of regulations that school principals and teachers are often unable to exercise meaningful control over their schools. Furthermore, the prevailing "ethos" in the education establishment-made up of researchers, administrators, and bureaucrats-is suspicious of many forms of punishment, and exhibits a fixation with "sensitivity training" and building self-esteem among students."    
One would think that if the Obama administration was serious about improving education they would remove the regulations that interfere with classroom discipline.  Instead in response to higher number of blacks being suspended than whites, President Obama issued an "executive order" which effectively placed "quotas" on school discipline based on race.  If there are more disruptive blacks than Chinese in a school and you suspend the blacks you could face possible civil rights violation charges.


Public School Teacher Merely "Suspended" After Unseemly Allegations Surface

A follow-up to my item from earlier. Among other things, Politico reported today that powerful union leaders invariably maintain they do not and will not “protect bad teachers”; they merely want to honor “due process.”  How, then, could they possibly explain something like this? Via Jazz Shaw:

 Officials suspended James Lang without pay from his tenured job as an English teacher at Fords Middle School in Woodbridge -- a short distance from Staten Island -- 20 months ago.  The principal testified some students were afraid to go to Lang's class. …

Among the district's allegations against Lang were incidents including calling a student a "dirty ho," telling a student who bent over that he would "tap that" and asking students if they would be afraid if his "snake were in their bed," according to the Home News Tribune.

This man was not fired. On the contrary, he was only suspended despite allegations he sexually harassed his students, and indeed, made many of them feel uncomfortable and afraid. Is this not grounds for automatic termination? I suppose his presumed union representatives would maintain that as a “tenured” educator, he has the right to appeal his case, and therefore firing him on the spot would have been premature and unfair. Perhaps. But he was suspended nearly two years ago, and one would think the school district could have resolved this issue by now. Why haven’t they?

Schools are supposed to be places where children feel safe. If anything, this story shows how exceedingly difficult it is to fire public school teachers with tenured positions; even ones who allegedly make sexual advances on school grounds and in the classroom.


The BBC's anti-free schools bias is becoming laughable

The National Audit Office's report on free schools is generally favourable, though you wouldn't know it if you relied on this article on the BBC's website.

The NAO report found that the average cost of establishing a new free school is £6.6m, compared to an average cost of creating a new school under the last government of £25m. "New approaches have led to much lower average construction costs than in previous programmes," it says. Yet the BBC chose to go with the following headline: "Free schools costs trebled to £1.5b."

The report found that 87 per cent of free school primary places are in areas that have "high or severe need" for additional places, with 70 per cent of all free school places falling into that category. The BBC reported this as follows: "The NAO said… many schools were not in areas of need."

The report says that 18 of the 25 free schools inspected by Ofsted so far have been rated "Good" or "Outstanding". That's a hit rate of 72 per cent, well above the national average of 64 per cent since Ofsted's tough new inspection regime was introduced. But you wouldn't know that from reading the BBC's account, which simply records the fact that two free schools "have been judged to be providing an inadequate standard of education".

The report says that 86 per cent of the places created by the 174 free schools that have opened so far have been filled. The BBC ignores that and quotes "Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge" (without identifying her as a Labour MP): "Over £1bn will have been spent on the free schools programme by March 2014, yet on opening, one in four desks at free schools were empty."

The general impression created by the BBC article, underlined by its grotesque misrepresentation of the NAO report, is that the government is wasting money on free schools in areas where they're not needed while ignoring the critical shortage of places elsewhere. In fact, not only are 70 per cent of all free schools places in areas of "high or severe need" but the government is spending an additional £5bn on new school places up to 2015. That's more than double what the previous government spent on creating new school places in a comparable time period.

The author of this shockingly misleading article is Hannah Richardson who has a long track record of inaccurate reporting when it comes to free schools. I've blogged about Richardson's Left-wing bias twice before (see here and here) and it was picked up on the Guido Fawkes website here.

Isn't it about time James Harding, the BBC News Director, told her to be a little more even-handed?


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