Guest Post – Gates Foundation’s Vicki Phillips On Common Core Momentum

Vicki Phillips is Director of Education, College Ready at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (a foundation that funds Bellwether).  In the timely guest post below she discusses Common Core implementation and the current debate over slowing it down:

More than 80 percent of students say they expect to go to college, but less than 40 percent of adults have an associate’s degree or higher. It’s clear that we need to do something—something big—to prepare America’s students to achieve the American dream. Fortunately, we already have. Right now, K-12 education is going through two changes that will help all students get the high-quality education they deserve.

The first has to do with academic standards. For decades, we held most students to standards that didn’t match the knowledge and skills they needed to succeed after graduation. The Common Core State Standards were designed to fix that problem, and 45 states have adopted and are in the process of implementing them.

The second big change relates to how we support and evaluate teachers. Before I set foot in the classroom as a young teacher, I received only the most generic training. Once I actually had students, I managed more or less on my own. The same is true for the overwhelming majority of teachers today, who routinely have to rely on intuition or trial and error instead of evidence-based insights about how to get better at their craft. Fortunately, states and districts are building systems to provide teachers with ongoing, personalized feedback based on multiple measures, making it possible to customize professional development.

The thing about big changes is that they can be unsettling. Some people worry that the Common Core will over-burden teachers who are already over-burdened, and I empathize. Others want to be cautious about how tests aligned to the Common Core are used to evaluate teachers, students, and schools, and I agree. But the fact is, in the vast majority of cases, these changes are being implemented carefully to avoid precisely these pitfalls.

What does appropriate implementation of new standards and evaluation systems look like?

The key principle is giving teachers and students time to adjust to new expectations before they face serious consequences for not meeting them.

Teachers should benefit from the insights that come out of the evaluation systems as soon as they’re available, but districts should ensure that there is a baseline and several years of data before using these systems to make personnel decisions.

Students who do well on new assessments aligned to the Common Core may want to use them to let colleges know they’re ready for credit-bearing courses, but test scores shouldn’t be used to make consequential decisions, such as whether students should graduate, until we are sure we understand how to interpret the results.

Schools already identified as needing improvement should continue to make improvements on behalf of their students, but no new schools should be singled out based on new assessments until teachers have had a few years to get used to the new ways of working.

What I just described is the ideal state. It is also, with the exception of a few outliers, what is actually happening across the country. We should highlight the outliers and encourage them to take a more balanced approach, but we should also recognize that most districts and states are going about this the right way.

As the Council of Chief State School Officers details in its October 2013 report, “Implementing the Common Core Standards,” states across the nation have been working to implement the new standards for the past three years. Over 500 Colorado educators representing 61 school districts, for example, participated in workshops to create 670 curriculum samples based on the standards. The Georgia State Department of Education has created numerous resources for teachers, including a video library,, with more than 1,000 videos that demonstrate effective implementation of the standards in classrooms. In the past year, I’ve attended conferences in Kentucky and Tennessee where teachers shared best practices for implementing the new standards.

Primary Sources, a national survey of teachers supported by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that 73 percent of teachers who teach math, English language arts, science, or social studies in states that have adopted the Common Core are enthusiastic about implementation in their classrooms. And 75 percent feel prepared to teach the standards, up from 59 percent in 2011. Teachers acknowledge that it will be challenging to implement the standards and want more resources, professional development, and time to prepare lessons, which is exactly what we should be concentrating on giving them.

In the majority of states, teacher evaluation systems won’t have high-stakes consequences for teachers until at least 2015-16.

In the meantime, teachers are benefitting from the new evaluation systems being rolled out. In a survey of several districts where our foundation is working closely, 78 percent of teachers agreed that their professional development experiences were focused on specific elements in their district’s teacher observation rubric. And 43 percent said they received coaching to address the specific needs identified by their evaluation results.

Given the reality of what’s happening on the ground in states across the country, I cannot understand those who are calling on states and districts to pause, stop or reverse these critical changes. Such a halt could undo the progress teachers, districts, and states have already made while stopping future progress in its tracks.

Change requires focus and perseverance. We need to be willing to analyze what’s working and what’s not so we can make adjustments as we go. We need to give students and teachers extra support as they get used to the new standards. We need to listen to input from everyone with a stake in the future of our schools, including state and local school officials, teacher unions, and parent groups.

We also must remember why change is needed in the first place. We desperately need a school system that ensures America’s 50 million students are prepared for success in college and careers, and these changes are an important part of that aspiration.

There is a lot of hard work to be done in the next several years. Our energy should be focused on working together to make sure these urgent changes are made judiciously and help students and teachers do their best.

We all want our students to be better prepared. There are two wrong ways to get there: to push ahead recklessly with big changes, or not to push ahead at all. The right approach is the one the majority of states in the country are taking: thoughtful and steady.

43 Replies to “Guest Post – Gates Foundation’s Vicki Phillips On Common Core Momentum”

  1. Talk about ideals disconnenected with reality. I know former students who are already on the streets without a diploma because they couldn’t pass a “Common Core-type” exit exam partially because they’ve never received any Common Core type instruction.

    How many kids like that are there?

    Nobody knows.

    How many will there be this June?

    Many, many more.

    And, next June comes the deluge.

  2. John, your comment reminds me of the “debate” around voter fraud. Lots of fear and anecdotes, but almost no actual real cases. Fewer than a handful of states are even giving Common Core aligned tests yet. Please name the specific state or states where this is happening. (And before you say New York, there’s a multi-year transition plan in place there.) If true, we should call them out.

  3. It troubles me that this cites survey results, but the full survey information, including the questions asked and order in which they were presented, is not publicly available. We’ve seen too many Common Core polls that present positively loaded descriptions of the Core and then ask for approval. I don’t kow that such is the case with the Primary Sources poll, but I also don’t know that it isn’t, and transparency on Core-related work is both crucial, and something that has been very sorely lacking.

  4. While the editorial of Ms. Phillips calls for caution, which is how the Core standards are being implemented here in California (in spite of bullying threats from Washington, D.C.), and is also behind our reluctance to implement teacher appraisal systems calling for ever more emphasis on dumb, narrow tests producing dumb, narrow students (look at our miserable PIAAC results if you have any doubts about the veracity of this dark assessment), it should be recognized that still more caution should be shown towards these mainstream reform planks than is advocated here; for there is no Never-Neverland where all students need to be in order to be “college and career ready” — real students leave high school for hundreds of colleges with thousands of programmes, or hundreds of different career paths, all with different input requirements — nor is there any singular formula that can properly evaluate the enormous diversity of teachers at work in this country, with their myriad struggles and challenges; and any educational leaders who think this single set of solutions to our educational challenges will succeed are badly misleading the public, and themselves.

  5. Vicki Phillips is right on target. We need to maintain the focus on helping students get ready for college and careers and raising the standards will do just that. She’s also right that changes can be unsettling, and some teachers and students may feel overburdened as we shift to the Common Core Standards. That’s why we’ve taken steps to ensure thoughtful and steady implementation of the new standards.

     In New York State, no new focus or priority schools are being identified based on the initial Common Core assessment results.
     Growth scores for grades 4-8 New York State teachers are calculated based on the progress of similar students, all of whom took a Common Core assessment for the first time in 2013. Lower proficiency rates on Common Core assessments did not negatively affect teacher evaluations. In the first year of New York’s new evaluation law, only one percent of teachers were found to be ineffective.
     The first class of NYS students required to pass Common Core high school regents exams is the graduating class of 2017—a full seven years after the adoption of the standards. The State Education Department neither requires nor encourages districts to make student promotion decisions based on the performance of students on Grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments. Promotional decisions should be based on multiple measures of student performance, including writing samples, class work, homework, teacher observations, and other relevant information.

    Working with education stakeholders, the NYS Board of Regents is continuing to make thoughtful adjustments as we work toward college and career readiness for all students.

  6. Sabrina, that site does not provide the full survey information, only final results. Indeed, I asked for the full results and was told – as that site still says – that a final report will be arriving “in the coming months.” (And even that does not sound like it’s guaranteed to provide the full survey.) As for the previous surveys the findings are consistent with, you’ll note that many previous polls have suffered from the loaded descriptions I mentioned:

    Alas, others have also failed to be forthcoming with their raw data and questionnaires. Given these tidbits, I hope you won’t mind if I continue to ask for full information.

  7. Perhaps I am dense, but I can’t seem to follow Ms. Wang’s logic.

    She starts with “more than 80 percent of students say they expect to go to college, but less than 40 percent of adults have an associate’s degree or higher.” Given that, what is her prescription? Push more students to colleges? Wean more students from overly rosy expectations? I can’t really see what her point is, as she continues with the meaningless “[i]t’s clear that we need to do something—something big—to prepare America’s students to achieve the American dream.” In her considered opinion, we need to “do” whatever it is to achieve … WHAT??

    She never answers what is the purpose, but she already has the solution … drum roll … the Common Core! In her vision “[s]tudents who do well on new assessments aligned to the Common Core may want to use them to let colleges know they’re ready for credit-bearing courses, but test scores shouldn’t be used to make consequential decisions, such as whether students should graduate, until we are sure we understand how to interpret the results.” Meaning what, exactly? Is the CC good enough to prepare students for college but not good enough to graduate HS, which is what she seems to say? Many understand that Common Core’s “college readiness” is a low-level fake, but surely it should be high enough to at least graduate high school. So what is she saying?

    Ms. Wong is a Director of Education and College Readiness at the Gates Foundation. One would expect a more coherent position statement from someone occupying such position.

  8. This is a terribly unconvincing presentation to try to back up a set of highly flawed education policies, rushed into adoption by states after they were pressured by the feds to adopt the Gates-favored agenda. There’s little evidence and no field-testing to back up the Common Core standards, which were developed in a highly secretive manner, led by two men chosen by the Gates Foundation with no teaching experience. Their development had little input from working teachers and NO input by early childhood experts. The evaluation system which states adopted to get RTTT funds, also pushed by the Gates Foundation, requires that teacher evaluations be strongly linked to value-added test scores — a system that almost no experts in statistics or education believe are valid, reliable or fair. In those places like NY that are on a fast track to adopt them, the Common Core standards, tests and modules are almost universally regarded as highly defective by teachers, administrators and parents alike. Parents in school districts where most of the kids go to college and do well their have been now told that their schools and their children are failing. And I have yet to hear from any NY teacher who says that he or she is getting meaningful feedback as a result. This implementation of the Common Core has caused a backlash so intense that the leaders of both parties have come out strongly against the current policies.

    But the weakest evidence cited by Ms. Phillips is this: “In a survey of several districts where our foundation is working closely, 78 percent of teachers agreed that their professional development experiences were focused on specific elements in their district’s teacher observation rubric. And 43 percent said they received coaching to address the specific needs identified by their evaluation results.” Talk about cherry picking! These are tepid results and do not appear to reflect approval of either the PD that has been offered, or the evaluation system. I strongly recommend that the Gates Foundation release the full results from all districts in which they have cone teacher, student or parents surveys, to see what the response has actually been.

  9. Jack,

    That’s the disadvantage of knowing and loving inner city students. When they are driven out of school, they come up crying and explain why.

    People who don’t understand actual schools don’t realize that in states like Oklahoma, most students won’t be effected for a couple of years. After all, we’ve only had one “Common Core-type” test. But, in the inner city, most students don’t pass their freshmen and sophomore EOIs until their senior year. Before last year, they could pass up to three Workkeys tests as substitutes. But, last year they had to pass a Common Core-type freshman test and obviously they hadn’t been taught Common Core. The dropout rate doubled. Plus, there were the students who realized they couldn’t pass the four required tests and stopped coming to school.

    In two months, they will have to pass more Common Core-type tests and nobody has a clue what that means. Certainly, teachers haven’t been told what Common Core instruction is or what it covers.

    Then, unless we change the law, which is virtually impossible, the crisis explodes.

    But, Jack, you tell me, how could society almost instantly transform minimum competency exit exams into college readiness exams without asking how it will effect kids during the transition? How much Common Core instruction should kids (who read on 6th grade levels on the average) be provided before having high stakes tests imposed on them? Is one year of Common Core-type US History instruction enough to make up for all the previous years’ instruction they weren’t exposed to? One year’s Biology or English or Algebra?

  10. Gates has a huge stake in Common Core as well as other reform initiatives. Many projects promoting his agenda are listed in the column to the right as Educational Resources and Organization. Many more are listed here:

    Vickie Phillips is protecting the Gates’ investment in Common Core while, even as I write this post, states are being coerced into adopting NGSS as a condition of the next round of waivers from NCLB. Extortion disguised as policy.

  11. The pro CC$$/high stakes testing/junk science VAM scammers/Privatizers are ramping up their shilling. They are nervous about the resistance and, in some places, open full scale rebellion taking place. Gates has a lot of $kin int he game as does Pearson, Charter “Operators” and the legislators and DOE types that have been wined dined and lobbied into compliance. The truth is that teachers and parents all across the country are rising up to challenge the Big Lie that PUBLIC Education is failing and only regressive and repressive “deform” can save us from the apocalypse!!!! The truth is, of course, that PUBLIC Education has never been better, that graduation rates are the highest ever, PISA scores still reveal American kids are #1, 2 or 3 in the world in Maths, Language Arts and Sciences when poverty is taken into account. Ruh-roh!!!!! I said the word: Poverty. The 20-25% of American children living in poverty dwarfs the rest of the so called developed world with the exception of Romania. Finland, by contrast has a rate of about 3-5% and the Finns are PISSED it is that high!!!! here we cut food stamps, cut medic aid, cut unemployment, give more tax breaks to the wealthy……….OMG!!!! I thought Blowhard Bennett’s dire national security risk of 30 years ago was sordid and alarmist enough. But even Blackjack Bill ain’t got nothing over the current self promoting, self interested, self profiting gang who would pimp our kids, teachers, schools and communities out for a shot at the relatively safe taxpayer guaranteed money that is to be made. “The Civil Rights issue of our time”————yeah, right! ^0^

  12. While many typically developing students are struggling with these standards, it is important to remember that ALL students are expected to master these goals annually, whether they have autism, Down Syndrome, language processing or physical impairments or are just learning English. The Common Core is a recipe for failure for large numbers of students, and these failures will then be blamed upon their teachers. The standards and the tests are unproven, designed with no input from experts in child development or special education, and have no provision for reflection, revision or independent validation. This hugely expensive “reform” driven by corporate interests who are profiting off public education dollars must be stopped now before it can inflict any more harm upon our students, our teachers and our public schools.

  13. “What does appropriate implementation of new standards and evaluation systems look like?

    The key principle is giving teachers and students time to adjust to new expectations before they face serious consequences for not meeting them.

    Teachers should benefit from the insights that come out of the evaluation systems as soon as they’re available, but districts should ensure that there is a baseline and several years of data before using these systems to make personnel decisions.”

    This is what is known as lying. Time to adjust? Not in places like New York. Several years of data before making personnel decisions? Not according to the majority of teacher evaluation state laws that I’ve read.

    The problem isn’t CCSS. I’ve been teaching that way for a long time. The problem is the expensive, relatively meaningless, high-stakes tests that are attached to CCSS. Teachers know those scores will be used to evaluate performance and that they will used immediately from the first run. Rather than create buy-in, this creates fear in an era of shrinking school budgets.

    Phillips seems to be launching a response to the growing questioning surrounding CCSS now that people are more aware of it than they were while it was quietly being assembled.

  14. The irony in this Phillips piece is that much of what is being attempted with CCSS was already tried in Kentucky in the early 1990s. The driving CCSS philosophies didn’t work out very well in that experiment.

    Following an enormous tax increase, Kentucky’s education system launched all sorts of radical reforms in 1990: very advanced assessments with lots of open-response and performance-based problems, a new stress on process over content, introduction of Whole Language philosophies, and introduction of radical, unproved math ideas. Much of what we are seeing come into play – again – as a result of CCSS was all there in the Bluegrass State following enactment of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

    So, what happened to that Kentucky experiment?

    Scores on Kentucky’s higher-order thinking skills tests – the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System, or KIRIS – skyrocketed.

    Meanwhile, Kentucky’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math assessments continued to lag. For example, in the 1992 NAEP Grade 4 math assessment, Kentucky’s white students were 13 percent proficient while across the nation whites in public schools scored 22 percent proficient – a 9 point gap. By the year 2000, two years after the KIRIS tests collapsed – but not long enough for much real change in the classroom – Kentucky’s whites were 19 percent proficient, but the nationwide public school white proficiency rate had risen faster to 30 percent – a gap of 11 points.

    The situation was worse for the state’s blacks. In 1992 Kentucky’s blacks were 3 percent proficient while blacks across the nation’s public schools scored 2 percent proficient. By 2000, Kentucky’s black fourth grade math proficiency rate dropped to 2 percent while their national counterparts improved to 4 percent proficiency. Kentucky’s blacks went from a point ahead to two points behind.

    Kentucky’s whites and blacks lost ground compared to their counterparts in the NAEP Grade 8 math assessments between 1992 and 2000, as well.

    The message from the state’s NAEP grade 4 reading scores was different (NAEP didn’t test Grade 8 reading until the year KIRIS collapsed). Kentucky’s fourth grade NAEP reading scores improved between 1992 and 1998, but they were corrupted by skyrocketing exclusion of students with learning disabilities. This jump was related to the use of inappropriate testing accommodations on the state’s tests, accommodations the federal assessments would not allow (Note: both of the CCSS testing consortia will force the same, inappropriate reading accommodations down the throats of many states that currently prohibit them).

    Due to mounting evidence, Kentucky’s CCSS predecessor started to come apart rather quickly. KIRIS started in 1992. By 1996 two key elements, math portfolios (writing about math instead of really doing math) and the Performance Events had failed and were removed from the state assessment and accountability program.

    Just two years later, fed up with inflated assessment results that didn’t mesh with either the NAEP or with Kentucky’s growing college freshman remediation rates, KIRIS was ended.

    Now, here’s some more irony. Ms. Phillips was a key member of the reformed Kentucky Department of Education in the early 1990s when the state’s grand, CCSS-like education experiment started. She has to have some familiarity with the history. Yet, here we are today hearing from her about how wonderful CCSS will be if we just do it right. It would be more helpful if she first tells us how the very same sorts of programs went so wrong in Kentucky during the 1990s so the entire nation doesn’t go down those same rabbit trails, again.

  15. I’m glad to finally see an article directly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In your entire article, “parents” were not mentioned. This is one of the biggest problems associated with Common Core because it was a top down initiative. Parents were the last to know, even though all can agree with the research that says parent involvement in their child’s education is the biggest predictor of student achievement.

    Ah-but the biggest obstacle is poverty and common core’s standards, while a noble effort, will make it harder for those at the bottom portion of the gap to reach the top. Instead of blowing the gamble on a new set of standards, I believe federal funds to support teacher training and collaboration along with changes to the federal policies on poverty would do more.

    In my church, I watched a documentary on poverty, A Place at the Table, that made it clear to me that no new curriculum will help children do better in school when their stomachs are growling and they have poor nutrition and health.

  16. “Such a halt could undo the progress teachers, districts, and states have already made while stopping future progress in its tracks.”

    Dr. Phillips,
    Thank you for recognizing that in this political ping pong, the immense efforts that educators have put into taking the worthy challenge of looking closely at their instruction, and reevaluating what must done to help ALL students reach a higher, more relevant bar, is no small task. Yet we have done it, and are now working together, able to share best practices and collaborate with our colleagues across state lines. As an educator, this is thrilling, and has profoundly improved (and invigorated) my instruction. Myself, along with a majority of the teaching force, want to continue the work we have started.

    This year when we moved from Indiana to Massachusetts the reality of what this meant for students became personal, as my son, previously in a gifted and talented magnet program, struggled to keep up in Massachusetts. We can do better to give all students a fair shot; the CCSS facilitates this.

    Let us not forget our reason for taking on this challenge-students-let us take a real step in leveling the playing field. As a long time teacher, and a mother, I do hope we can focus on the tremendous potential offered by the new standards.

    “Change requires focus and perseverance.” Thank you, Dr. Phillips and all other all partners, teachers, and parents who engage in this tough, but very worthwhile work.

  17. Laurie Halverson: “… because it was a top down initiative.”

    Does the Gates Foundation understand that all of its initiatives in public education have been “top down?”

    Whatever the merits of Bill and Melinda’s ideas, and so far – I feel almost sorry to burst their bubble – there have been few (with, ironically, the possible exception of small schools), the manner in which they’ve gone about implementing them has been counterproductive at best and harmful as a general rule.

    When people ask me, “what’s so bad about the Gates Foundation? Don’t they help people?” I begin with the concept of “first, do no harm” and how it relates to the history of Gates’ education “advocacy” in United States.

    Our schools needed help. We were pleading for help. But those who could have been our angels, the reformers, led by the Gates Foundation with its unfathomable resources and power, came to us not with alms, but with cudgels. They marched in like an invading army, like “liberators” who presume they have to burn a village in order to save it.

    From the safety of their estates and their private schools, they set public education on fire – disruptive innovation indeed – and they expected us to be thankful for the “Stalinist Gothic” complexes they’re replacing it with. I’m sure our resentment pains and confuses them.

    Gates et al. need to accept responsibility for the breakage they caused when they barreled arrogantly into our fragile, intricately-threaded, century-in-the-making, grand work of art. This edifice needed restoration, not replacement. What a costly mistake. To think of the years of acrimony, demoralization, wasted money, and lost learning we could have avoided if they had only followed the rules of human relations 101.

    Do they understand that we would have accepted help given gracefully? But they made us adversaries. THEY did that – not the teachers, not the parents, not the unions, not the poor and ignorant – they did that. They made enemies of their natural allies so find themselves fighting a war instead of raising a barn.

    It’s their shame and their tar baby. If we balk at this latest spoonful of cod liver oil – CCSS – who can wonder why?

  18. Vicki,

    Many teachers will get fired based on common core assessments. Many teachers who teach in “high poverty” areas are going to be culled. Many lives of students and teachers will be destroyed. Many kids in the inner city have horrible attendance, and they don’t have a good home life. Now we are going to judge teachers on things they can’t control. This isn’t a business! Teachers can’t fire or hire. If I could do that, I would fire half my class tomorrow. They don’t study, or do homework. Half do, but half don’t. Have you ever heard of personal responsibility? I am in a very good public school district. What do you think will happen in the poor districts? Has Mr. Gates ever thought of talking to an actual teacher, you know someone who teaches day in and day out? He’s ruining his own legacy. History will not look kindly on Bill Gates. Is he going to reform police work next? What is the next thing he knows nothing about that he is going to reform? Unbelievable. Only in America could this travesty happen.

    Here are some ideas that would actually work to improve education (if that is his actual goal…)
    Make teaching a better paid career. Attract the best and brightest to teaching. Everyone I know (especially the best teachers) want to leave right now. No one I know would ever tell their kids to be teachers.
    Hold students responsible for the studying or lack thereof. Why is the teacher punished for things he has no control over? I don’t get.
    Smaller classes, you know like the classes his own kids get. Smaller classes make a big difference, no matter what a Gates-funded study says. Talk to any teacher.
    Give teachers job protection, generous salaries and pensions. Make people compete to teach, and the best and brightest will want to be teachers instead of monopolistic computer nerds. Think about it.

    And Vicki, by the way, I would never be part of what Gates is doing to public education. How do you sleep at night? He could offer me 10 million, and I would never turn against the common good, our public schools. Shame on you! I hope that money was worth it.
    —-an anonymous (excellent) public school teacher

  19. Giving districts “several years of data” while children lose valuable instruction time in the service of an experiment is unconscionable!
    Are any among you willing to sacrifice any one of the 13 years your kids have in K-12 so the gates Foundation gathers data on the success of the CCSS? This is crazy!

  20. My children will be going to a private day school. Unfortunately this is what the elites want. They want to explode the public school system and make everyone go private. The buy it and ruin it. That is how you privatize something. Poor children (bottom 90% of society) will be stuck in huge classes in testing academies taking test after test. I guarantee you that your children will have no interest in education after a few years of that (starting in Kindergarten). This is all part of a well-though out plan to end public education. The top 1% is not interested in funding anything for the common good. Their children go to private schools with small class sizes and curiously very few standardized tests. This is also why college is getting so expensive. The government doesn’t give colleges much money. They don’t care if the commoners go to college. Read “The Power Elite” by Mills. He was disturbed by what he saw in the 1950s. The 1950s were a paradise compared to this evil dystopia we live in. Teachers have seen this coming for the last 10 years. Soon it will undeniable. Can you imagine our society in the 1950s allowing a billionaire college drop out (with no knowledge of education at all) to destroy the entire public school system? They would have laughed at him like they would in any European country. Only in America!!! Shame!! It’s all about the money.

  21. Common Core, Uncommon Core, Rotten-to-the-Core … Does it really matter? I posit that the curriculum in many American schools may not be as screwed up as what critics would have us believe. Unless and until we address some of the societal issues that impact education, will we really see a significant improvement in the academic functioning of our students? I’m not referring to improved test scores … Politicians have already led school officials to play that game, in the form of schools moving further in the direction of teaching to the tests, dumbing down the tests so that they are meaningless and, most shamefully, cheating by altering student responses. Think of the lessons that we teach our students when we do this!

    I began teaching in the 1970s and my students then were much more capable of thinking and working independently and analytically and were much more adept at problem-solving than are today’s students. It is no great revelation that we have a severe youth and children problem in our society today. Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the National Children’s Defense Fund, in her book The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation, attributes this to what she refers to as the profound ADULT problem that exists in our society.

    I further offer that part of our problem with children today, both in school and out of school, is that we spend too much time and effort trying to shelter them from failure, rather than taking the approach that setbacks can be learning opportunities that can make us stronger – physically, emotionally, and intellectually. We seem to have forgotten that success is often the resultant product of learning from failed efforts, by not letting those setbacks become permanent, but instead using them as stepping-stones and motivation for growth.

  22. As a recently-retired 38 year teaching veteran, I have often been astounded by the rhetoric from critics and reform-proponents who seem to have all of the answers. Most students could not care less about Common Core. The presence of high stakes tests, despite the rhetoric and rationale, still have not proved to boost student achievement. What they HAVE done is :

    * cause some teachers to remove essential elements of their curriculum of which their colleagues and/or administrators question the validity or relationship to standards
    * created high levels of stress on educators.
    * led to teaching to the tests. Don’t expect this to lessen! It will grow exponentially.
    * led to cheating by school officials, who are altering student responses
    * fostered a culture where test performance is held more dearly than actual student learning by far too many shareholders. Sadly enough, increasing numbers of teachers are and will continue to enter these ranks.

    Common Core, in and of itself, is not evil, wrong, or even adverse to sound pedagogy. The mad rush to seeing it as a panacea for fixing all that is broken with public education, however, is misguided. When change is mandated without a well-designed framework for implementation and evaluation, however, frustration and confusion are often the result. (It may not be such a stretch to deem Common Core the pedagogical equivalent of Obamacare!)

    Don’t misunderstand. Schools should be accountable for helping children learn; it is what, as educators, we do, or at least ought to do, and the vast majority of us are making valiant efforts to do so.

    A major focus of educational reform ought to be the attraction and retention of caring, committed, and competent teachers. Money is part of the answer, but not even the most critical element. Educators should have a greater voice in educational reform matters. States need to stop legislating against those things that will entice bright, young, caring spirits into the field. I speak with young people on a regular basis and am saddened by the number of people who have abandoned their aspirations of becoming teachers, based upon what has been happening to pension systems, the certification process, and the misguided notions of what should constitute efficacious evaluation of teachers.

    Yes, there are issues in American public education that need to be addressed and rectified. Unfortunately, this “shoot first, aim later” philosophy may well destroy the things that are not broken. The result of legislative interference may well drive people from the profession within their first few (3 to 5, if not fewer) years, before they have the chance to fully develop into outstanding teachers. THAT will be the next major American public education crisis, and it is one that is being artificially created by persons whose narrow-minded visions act as blinders, preventing them from seeing the damage that they may well be creating.

  23. There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE that a solid education guarantees the american dream.

    There is absolutely no evidence that ALL students wish and ardently choose to be educated.

    There is absolute evidence that those who WANT education can get it.

    Our Asian competitors are Buddhist and they place emphasis on the inner sanctity of each individual. Is it a mystery that their countries do so well in education? Buddhism is compatible with science and math. The western calvinist tradition is incompatible with global trade and relations, and science and math.

    The desire to control the future and plan and control is passé. And in math and science they recognize that.

    The entire edu-reform movement is religious at its core.

  24. In urban districts in NJ, the SBOE and NJDOE are imposing a “Model Curriculum” based (albeit poorly done) on the CCSS. Since most children in these districts are poor, ELLs, and have special needs they are performing very poorly on these mandatory CCSS-based, quasi-PARCC benchmark tests. However, this will allow the state to identify the 5 to 10 percent of students who can even pass these tests at all. These children will then be herded into magnet and charter schools as the state makes its case that NJ’s urban public schools are once again “failing”. Oh, and BTW, each teacher connected to every student is being tracked with an ID so that student scores can be tied to teacher evaluations. Broad, Gates, and KIPP are just waiting to descend upon every urban district in NJ and the nation.

  25. On Bill Gates:

    I attended a great hero’s full honors burial, with the caparisoned horse, at Arlington National Cemetery. I heard the three cadence dirge drum beat as I walked behind the caisson. It announced: Here comes a fallen war hero. Stop and remember.

    When the 3 volley was sounded, the graveyard echoed with the farewell. Taps said this great hero had been relieved of his command, and that his nation would now take care of him.

    I am not dithering or digressing. I am making a mental note of the powerful sense of honor, and immortality that is bestowed upon our military heros.

    Now, on to Bill. As with every shallow, self serving entrepreneur who has spent the meaningful part of his life manipulating, exploiting, monopolizing and crushing, he now faces his own mortality. He sees a gravestone with the words, “I got what I could, and I took it all.”

    Now he wants immortality and so he has become a philanthropist. Much like Carnegie, Morgan, Kaiser, Rockefeller, he desires a legacy that will recast him as a great humanist and lover of man.

    It is despicable. Bill, the honor of immortality is RESERVED for those with honor commitment, and courage.

    In civilian lingo, it goes to those who chose commitment and NOT convenience, character and NOT contrition, confidence and NOT conceit.

    Bill, you fail on all three counts. I will be buried in Arlington near my father. I lived that life. Bill, your can be buried somewhere near some rich folks just like you.

    Bill, there is NO greater fear than that of being forgotten. Live with your decisions. The rest of us do.

  26. Common core is a tectonic shift, not because it is “rigorous” or compels students to engage in “conceptual reasoning.”

    It is so different because parents and local school boards had absolutely NO SAY.

    The history of common core is incontrovertible. It was done by governors, in concert with for profit companies and think tankers, in order to get federal dollars to save their schools.


    CC is the END of local control of schools.

    The ridiculous claim that CC does not determine how to teach is stupid.

    It sets the content and it therefore sets the pedagogy.

    Here is an analogy.

    Mr. R tells a navy pilot, and he would, that he must land his plane upside down. The pilot then ADJUSTS HIS ROUTINE for landing the plane.

    Case closed.

  27. I told my daughter she had to clean her room on Saturday and get it done within 1 hour so that I could inspect by lunchtime (fat chance).

    She came to me and said she needed the vacuum cleaner, a better mop, and disposable dusters.

    My requirements dictated HER METHODS.

    Private sector folks KNOW THAT.

  28. Students who do well on new assessments aligned to the Common Core may want to use them to let colleges know they’re ready for credit-bearing courses, but test scores shouldn’t be used to make consequential decisions, such as whether students should graduate, until we are sure we understand how to interpret the results.

    Therefore…..students will treat the tests as MEANINGLESS. The data generated will be MEANINGLESS and then used to make firing decisions for teachers.

    The entire edu-debate is entirely nonsensical.

    When did human beings EVER FEAR a behavior that had NO CONSEQUENCES? We are evolutionarily hard wired to tune out the inconsequential and cost free behaviors.

    Meaningless events create meaningless data sets.

  29. CC tests:

    Results go to the feds, and to private cloud servers. Data is sold. Businesses make hiring decisions based upon 12 years of longitudinal data.

    This IS the plan. How can anyone deny that?

    The only way to sell this CC stuff is to slip it in under the radar.

    The ugly truth is that children will be tracked, their data measured, their futures sorted and perhaps rejected, and that these tests will be used to assigned and perhaps condemn them to a rotten future existence.

    Why is business so adamant in its support for CC. ?Free job training nd loads of personal data. That is a gravy train, and all done at the expense of taxpayers.

    Forbes has written very convincing articles on why hedge fund folks are heavy into school reform. For a minimal investment they can open schools at taxpayer expense, rearrange the business model by cutting teacher wages, and then pocketing a normal rate of return, set by the feds, Forbes stated that these hedge folks believe their business models can DOUBLE THEIR MONEY IN SEVEN YEARS.

    Yep, the RULE OF SEVEN. Go read Forbes on this issue.

  30. Edu-reform says that education will LEVEL the playing field, and that ALL children can learn cloud physics if given a GREAT teacher. Great teachers follow the bell curve. A child’s abilities follow a bell curve.

    Yet, these same folks play in and accept the winner/loser philosophy of Calvin that is imbedded in our free market system (not that free). The word “loser” is a PERMANENT moral scourge on a person.

    We EMBRACE the inequality of the private sector and yet demand that it be corrected by teachers. Most of us embrace the notion of meritocracy FOR OTHERS, but for ourselves we DEMAND EXCEPTIONS. Contrition is a fine art in this sick nation.

    The edu-reform movement is a fermenting stink pit of logical contradictions. And those who disagree? We are wicked child haters.

    The education policy folks should be relabeled “pro-lifers”. They are using identical moral absolute arguments to the very nuanced issue of human intelligence and learning.

    They are applying the cruel Calvinist notion of punishment for failure to other folks who fail at achieving the ideal. And they do not see what they are doing.

    They are wild eyed pro-lifers.

  31. The biggest question I have is what are the viable careers or professions?
    Where will the jobs be? Will it be like the 80’s, all of the service industry jobs were the biggest gain of employment, but most of those jobs were minimum wage jobs that in reality were below poverty level income positions. Many of the service industry jobs in the help desk mode are actually out of country positions. I totally agree with a standard of preparation but preparation for what?

  32. Bill Jones: actually the countries that are competing with us are generally part of the CONFUCIAN diaspora and not predominantly Buddhist. Confucianism is an especially helpful framework for the sort of competitiveness and drive-to-reach-the-top we see in countries such as South Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. I find it interesting that we always seem to feel menaced by the Confucian countries whereas the achievements of Finland, Germany, Denmark, et al, for example, intrigue but don’t intimidate us.

  33. A big debate over whether Common Core is good or bad for our schoolchildren has everyone sharing an opinion whether they know anything about it or not. It’s a bit too late for heated discussions. The new standards are already in place and telling teachers how to teach and what their students should study. So, people can deliberate all they want, but the proverbial horse has already left the barn.
    In many states, the math and English guidelines or standards are in place and will determine the knowledge students should master by the end of each grade. It will dictate what they’ll be tested on this year, and in many cases, the tests will rate teachers and principals in their jobs once those test scores are released. We are back to square one chasing a program developed and pushed by policy and politicians. The money race has begun, with teachers throwing out lesson plans and writing new ones, schools having to purchase textbooks that have been overhauled and required to buy new digital products. Every education developer has the magic bullet and they are out in full force hawking their wares to schools with the promise to help them meet the challenge of the new, tougher standards. There is a lot of money to be made in the name of educating our children and the Common Core State Standards has opened the flood gates to the hawkers.

  34. Common Core roll out was handled poorly in so many counties and districts, for a host of local political reasons. But I love the CCSS for one major reason: it’s a crisis I can use to serve programs and students who otherwise would not be served. For example, the literacy standards helped me create and fund a position of full-time Literacy Coach, because of the stress my administrators felt at the prospect of having content-area teachers teaching literacy practices for the first time ever. My real reason for pushing for the position was not, however, CCSS, but rather my own perceived need to have inter-departmental conversations around literacy to better serve students. I’ve used the new push for Local Control in California to create programs that serve underrepresented student groups on campuses, but not because I care about Local Control–I’ve just recognized an opportunity to serve students when without the ‘crisis’ I was constantly turned down due to lack of funding. The immediacy of common core works so well for those of us who have had ideas for programs or policies but lacked backing.

  35. A major flaw with initiatives such as Common Core, PARCC, and their preceding and related ilk is that their genesis springs from a misguided notion that a major curriculum overhaul was necessary, as the course of study in American public schools was antiquated and no longer useful. Granted, curriculum needs to be fluid, with new elements being added to address the changing world.

    I proffer that the problem is NOT so much that our CURRICULUM is “screwed up” as it is that our SOCIETY is “screwed up.”

    Which compass are we to follow? The map keeps changing, and has been more important than the goals it purports to seek.

    Bureaucracy is dismantling American public education with increasing fervor. So much instructional time is being wasted by the inordinate attention and value assigned to a structure and schema that does NOT serve students, teachers, or society well.

    I invite you to follow my comments regarding Common Core, American public education, our society, and other rants at

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