Obama Plan Changes Education To The Core

Poll: Like Bush's No Child Left Behind, new Common Core State Standards will impact public schools in San Leandro and elsewhere. What do you think of national standards and tests?


(Editor's note: Patch columnist Jerry Heverly is an English teacher at San Leandro High.)

A report in US News & World Report this week says that the general public does not know about the coming new thing in American public education:  the Common Core.

Since the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) may cost you money, I thought I should try to introduce you to what’s coming. But to explain CCSS I must first spend one column show reviewing recent developments.

This process started in 2001.

That's when George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy devised something called No Child Left Behind (NCLB) during Bush’s first term. (Yes, I know: other people were involved.)

Their argument was that the federal government had an obligation to force the various state education bureaucracies to improve education, by consistently and repeatedly measuring what kids were learning (annual tests). They wanted each state to reward improving schools that “demonstrated improvement” and punish those that weren’t making, in the words of the bill “Annual Yearly Progress (AYP).”

This year’s sixth graders should score higher than last year’s, for instance. Same for the other grades. And within each grade the policy insisted that subgroups like African-Americans and English Language Learners be monitored independently so that schools couldn’t rig the results by focusing on some students while ignoring the rest.

To avoid federal control of education, everything was dumped in the laps of the states. They were supposed to decide what a passing score was and what was to be taught.

Making schools accountable was one major goal of NCLB. Timetables were established to give schools a few years to improve, but if they didn’t do so there were prescribed consequences. If a school’s AYP didn’t go up for two consecutive years, for instance, a parent could transfer his or her child to another, presumably more successful, school in the same district.

The real meat of the consequences came in the fourth year. If scores didn’t improve for four consecutive years the law allowed for mass firings of staff, longer school days and other changes.

And all subgroups had to improve. So even if a school’s AYP was satisfactory on the whole, it still had to have every subgroup moving upwards or the state had the right to come in and reorder the entire school.

After six years of non-improvement a school could be closed down and replaced by a state-run school, a charter school, or some other fix.

The most formidable challenge of NCLB was its stipulation that by 2014 every child in the school had to be testing at grade level in math and reading.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the numbers that were being generated by NCLB were controversial—and that not everyone agreed on what they meant.

Did states set the bar too low to make themselves look good?

How widespread was cheating?

Some schools were showing startling improvement by devoting months of instruction to test preparation. Was this a good thing?

Did higher scores really mean that a school was improving?

What was clear was that a Judgment Day was approaching. A decade of NCLB showed that in 2014 there were going to be a whole lot of schools listed as failing, even in the wealthy suburban districts that had heretofore escaped any NCLB sanctions.

Congress made some efforts to modify the law, but the two sides had a fundamental disagreement that couldn’t be bridged:  if schools are failing they should be held accountable—but the number of failing schools was about to swamp the system. If the penalties were removed or watered down that would probably negate the purpose of the law.

This was the situation that faced the incoming Obama administration.

In my column next Thursday, I’ll tell you what’s been going on lately.

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

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Tracie Cearley-Kinser July 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
The Standardization of education has killed good teaching practices and children's education. We have created a generation of test takers, not learners. They have learned how to bubble in an answer. They do not know how to problem solve or think for themselves. It is a disgrace!
Leah Hall July 12, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Additional considerations-- The Feds have leveraged their 10% mightly. (For that funding, which primarily takes care of school lunches and special education costs, they get to run the show). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has leveraged their 1% education funding in many cases as well. "Superman" is a fictional comic book character. Do we need a new montra?
Marga Lacabe July 12, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Jerry, thank you so much for this article. I haven't been following this debate, so it helps a lot.
Tom Abate (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Thanks for that kudo, Marga. When people read and enjoy non-controversial stories they don't usually say "Good job." So I (and Jerry?) appreciate your doing so. He has another installment on this topic coming that is equally informative. Please share this article. I think it's as clear an explanation of these developments as one is likely to find.
Thomas Clarke July 13, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Lemme see here now. 4 years of failure and teachers get fired. Unions do not like that and neither do the teachers. Unions support the Democrats so the Democrats toss the no child left behind program. What a surprise. Who loses out? The kids that are still not learning and the foolish voters that continue to support the schools, the teachers and the union. Yep there are real bad guys out there and they in large part the over paid teachers and under achieving school districts and greedy unions. Sorry kids you will not learn enough to do much and your folks likely went to the same schools you do. When the school district does not meet the median standard there is something really wrong.
David July 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Said it before and I'll say it again. When our kids are forced into local, big box, government run schools and have no choice, when teachers have "tenure" (which should not exist in K-12, period), parents will demand some sort of accountability from them, absent school choice. Parents, vote for school choice measures, and not only will we have choices of where to send our kids, but even the public schools will begin to compete for students, specialize and improve. Indeed, we have a parallel public/private education system right now. It's called the college/university system. There are stellar public universities and great private ones, and the whole range in between. They compete for students, they offer specialized study areas, etc etc.
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 12:57 AM
It's fun to imagine the future. There are plenty of scrappy Catholic schools (like ours in San Leandro?) that would just love to get a hold of our tax dollars and push their own "beliefs" about marriage, family planning, Satan, the media...
David July 13, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Yep, it's that anti-religious bigotry that makes you part of the conspiracy to keep kids poor and stupid.
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Nope. Just keeping up on current events, unless that in and of itself constitutes bigotry (which at the top of the Catholic hyerarchy pretty much what the choir is singing).
David July 13, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Then you should vary your news sources, or better yet go to the source. Because you're sadly misinformed. But setting aside your misinformation (as you send your child to a religious school yourself), what does it say of the "progressives" whose response to trying something new that has been shown to work in cities like Milwaukee, Cleveland and New Orleans, is to automatically shut it down. When presented with schooling techniques or at least the suggestion that public schools could try to organize themselves more like private/religious schools, the progressive response here is to say it'll never work, don't even try. When presented with decades of failure after spending more and more and more per pupil and getting barely the same results, the "progressive" response is to say, "More of the same, please!" That's Progressive? Really?
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Turn about is fair play, I suppose. You're sadly misinformed about my daughter's "religious" school. I urge you to practice that which you preach, my friend.
David July 13, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Yes, it's probably about as religious as most if not all Catholic schools.
Paul Vargas July 13, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Did Leah a couple months ago said she was going to get her spawn into O'Dowd? Anyway, I know plenty of kids who went to Catholic school and they turned out to be Leftists pigs. Some famous ones are Gavin Newsome, Jerry Brown, Fidel Castro.
Tracie Cearley-Kinser July 13, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Don't blame his lack of understanding of the English language on his teachers. Students need to take responsibility for their education. One can only do so much if a child refuses to do his or her part. I'm really tired of teachers, who are NOT over paid, taking the heat for everything. Just reading these responses demonstrates to me the lack of respect for education and teachers that is passed onto children. Those children exhibit that same lack of respect for their teachers and their own education. You get what you put into it, just like everything else. Those that are commenting on the state of education have no idea what they are talking about. Do any of you volunteer in a classroom? I highly doubt it. Teachers work their butts off! We know how to teach, but we are limited because of the federal mandates. Our hands are tied and with our unions we are fighting what is wrong with education, what the politicians in Washington have done to destroy it. I wish more people would educate themselves on what is really happening in our schools. It is not the teacher in the classroom. It is the political system, test publishers that make billions off high stakes tests and the corporations that are trying to privatize education so they can make huge profits that is the problem.
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Paul is correct, I do intend to look closely at Bishop O'Dowd sans vouchers in a few years. Hit me!
Paul Vargas July 13, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Not that I would think Leah would drive an American car, but play some Curtis Mayfield http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVANQheoRUw
Tom Abate (Editor) July 13, 2012 at 03:34 PM
this a a post by Ken with some objectionable references edited out Ken Briggs 5:31 pm on Thursday, July 12, 2012 the teachers need to teach , but we only have a few good teachers and the school board does not give a damn . if the school board would back up some of the good teachers and kick the ones that cost trouble in school the hell out . (the
Tom Abate (Editor) July 13, 2012 at 03:36 PM
this is a post edited to remove some material that is not relevant to Rob's reaction to Ken: Rob Rich 6:01 pm on Thursday, July 12, 2012 Ken, I'm sorry you had such poor teachers.
David July 13, 2012 at 04:10 PM
You should let the admissions people at O'Dowd know about your anti-Catholic bigotries, Leah.
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Will do, David. Closets are so yesterday. Episcopalians Approve Rite to Bless Same-Sex Unions: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/11/us/episcopalians-approve-rite-to-bless-same-sex-unions.html?smid=fb-share
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 04:27 PM
We have a long long way to go, but we're using both feet and moving along, baby.
David July 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Which is exactly correlated with this: http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303919504577520950409252574.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion&mg=reno-wsj Many dioceses are no longer willing or able to cough up money to support the national organization, and its bank accounts are running dry. ... On Wednesday, the entire delegation from the diocese of South Carolina—among the very last of the traditionalist holdouts—stormed out of the convention. Thus do heresies crash and splinter upon the rock of St. Peter's. Funny how you think more of the same decades-old failed policies is "progressive" regarding something utilitarian like education, but on questions of eternity, you're all too willing to shift with the prevailing wind.
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 05:52 PM
The Lord works in mysterious ways. :( "Even the Vatican's response to the leaks from within the Vatican of sensitive papal documents hasn't involved a terribly sophisticated public relations strategy. Just last week the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed the media and the DEVIL for fueling the scandal and accused journalists of "pretending to be Dan Brown." Vatican Gets Fox Media Adviser http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/23/vatican-gets-fox-media-ad_n_1621259.html
David July 13, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Because some 7 year old personal papers are WAY more important than doctrinal questions ripping apart the Episcopalian church, right Leah. Enjoy your weekend. I'm chalking up this one in the win column. No need to respond.
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Gee, is it something I said? :(
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 06:40 PM
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” - Stephen Colbert (for anyone living under a rock, Stephen is a Catholic)
David July 13, 2012 at 07:31 PM
more than 3/5 of every federal dollar is spent on the elderly, sick and/or poor, Leah. Nice try quoting the esteemed political theoretician, economist and theologian, Stephen Colbert though. As the famous soccer player once said, "I spent all my money on wine, women and song. The rest I just wasted."
Leah Hall July 13, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Welcome back, girlfriend!


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