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Common Core Makes San Leandro Learn Like San Antonio

Poll: Common Core State Standards under Obama, like No Child Left Behind under Bush, imposes federal performance standards on local schools. Do you agree or disagree?

 

(Editor's note: Patch columnist Jerry Heverly is an English teacher at San Leandro High. This week's column is the second part of a story that began last week on the under Obama that follow the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative under Bush.)

Someone in the Obama administration must have had an epiphany sometime after they took control of the Department of Education.

The number of schools facing sanctions under NCLB was rising quickly. In 2014, thousands of school districts would have failing schools on their hands, since even the best schools had some kids who weren’t reading or doing math at grade level.

States were in a panic about how they would manage to restructure so many schools so quickly.

But what if the federal government offered them a way out?

What if the federal government said:  “OK, states, you don’t have the money to comply with NCLB. What if we propose a compromise? We’ll give you a ‘waiver’ from NCLB if you do something for us. There is a brand new set of educational standards called the Common Core that we’d like you to consider. If you agree to adopt these standards---and write tests that measure whether your kids are learning these standards—we will exempt you from NCLB.”

 “Hurrah,” said most of the states.

And the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were on its way.

Naturally, in a nation of 300 million, there were a few naysayers.

Some of the disagreement had to do, as you might predict, with money. New standards and new tests meant new textbooks and new equipment.

The feds argued that it wasn’t going to cost as much money as the opponents suggested. If every state had the same standards then every state could buy the same textbooks, which would be cheaper since the companies no longer would have to produce different books for different states.

And we can save money with computers, they said.

Kids can take tests right on the computers, saving paper and shipping costs. Computers could grade the tests so that schools could quickly learn how they did. It’s possible that some essay tests may be graded on computers. Research has shown that computers give about the same scores on essays that people do if they are programmed to look for the kinds of things that teachers look for.

The biggest objection to CCSS was the loss of local control of education. Right now it’s primarily conservative states like Utah, Texas, and South Carolina that are holding out on all or some of CCSS.

The feds say we’ll all be better if the student in Waco is expected to do the same things as the student in Corte Madera, and you can’t have that without a national standard.

There are also some arguments about what should be taught.

California, for instance, has been boasting for years that our 8th graders learn algebra, something that generally doesn’t happen till the 9th grade in the rest of the union.

How that will be resolved hasn’t been decided yet.

Proponents say the new tests will require students to use “higher order thinking,” and that there will be fewer multiple-choice questions.  Those tests are being written now.

The CCSS standards for English don’t sound very different from the California standards we’ve been using since 1997. The big difference for us will be that we will be required to teach less literature and more “informational texts.” Instead of assigning Of Mice and Men, I might be told to have my students read a diary of a hobo from the Great Depression.

Math gets bigger changes. Algebra and Geometry will become Integrated Math I & II, with some standards shifted to different years.

To do all this will cost money. Schools will need more computers. New tests must be developed.  It isn’t quite clear what new textbooks we will need to buy. There is talk that “materials” will be made available on the Internet with sample lesson plans.

But you know publishers will be offering new books. Will districts really opt for stopgap Internet lessons when they can get shiny new texts?

Here's what I think will happen.

Anyone who has been around teaching for a few years knows that teachers teach the way they were taught. That makes things very hard to change fundamentally.

I suspect the taxpayers, wanting the best for their kids, will spend millions on new equipment and new books. Teachers will listen to passionate CCSS advocates and watch their PowerPoint presentations. Many will leave those sessions excited about doing new things.

Then reality will set in. Kids will frustrate all those new plans. And teachers will return to the tried and true.

Until the next new thing comes around.

(You can read more essays like this in the archives of Entirely Secondary.)

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Marga Lacabe July 21, 2012 at 01:34 AM
As for "federalism", this is another issue altogether. Countries - whether democratic or not - can either be unitary or federal. In unitary countries, all the power is with the central government, though it can delegate some of it to its political subdivisions. Most countries are unitary. In federal countries, the states maintain most political power and delegate some to the central government. This is the case with the US as well as the United States of Mexico and Brazil. It's also the case theoretically with Argentina (aka The United Provinces of the La Plata River), where no sooner were we done fighting for independence that Unitarians started fighting Federalists - a war that lasted all of forty years. We ended up with a federal government, but as Argentina was run by military junta after military junta for most of the 20th century, it de facto became a unitary country. The US, therefore, is a Democracy in that the power resides on the citizenry, a Republic, in that the power is wield indirectly through an elected government, and a Federation in that the central government only has those powers delegated to it by the states. And yes, I learned all of this in 9th grade in Argentina. Perhaps it was easier for me than you given that Republic and Federal are both /lLatin/ words, rather than English.
Bob July 21, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Greetings Marga. I agree with everything you wrote. A good education is a human right and it will solve a lot of problems for the betterment of the entire United States. It is the single most crucial investment we could do to ensure the whole country benefits. Better educated citizens contribute more to society. Better educated citizens make better choices and vote better. For those who boo hoo over socialism and who want individuals to be self sufficient should be the first ones to support FREE quality education for all. Not this mentality of “I got mine, go get your own.” I believe every single child should get the same exact high quality education, the best our country has to offer regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, sexuality or social class from pre-K all the way up through at least the first 2 years of college. Then we can have an honest discussion of personal responsibility and individual accountability after the 2nd year of college. Any true patriot understands this is how a country achieves greatness as a whole.
Dalamar July 21, 2012 at 08:23 PM
The GOP. Cutting back education today in order to have more republican voters tomorrow.
Tom Abate July 21, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Good discussion but I don't think we can or should postpone a discussion of personal & familial responsibility until after the second year of college. Learning patterns are setting in by age 5 or so. Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds -- not just poverty but broken families -- start the system already behind. If we expect the taxpayer to even it all out, then then everything is going to have to be on the table.
Leah Hall July 21, 2012 at 10:28 PM
And on that note and taking a step back, thought this upcoming Bill Moyer program inteview on "sacrifice zones" will provide some further context to this discussion. In this preview video from the next 'Moyers & Company,' Bill Moyers talks with journalist Chris Hedges about the common cause behind America’s “sacrifice zones” — forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Hedges describes such greed as “the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings.” http://billmoyers.com/segment/preview-chris-hedges-on-greeds-path-of-destruction/

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