Schizophrenia in the New York Times Editorial Office (by Sandra Stotsky)

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The New York Times is suffering from a split personality about what the quality of public education should be. It claims it likes rigor. At the same time, it supports Common Core and its even poorer relative in the standards arena, Next Generation Science Standards. The NYT has apparently infected its education reporters with the same schizophrenia. Kenneth Chang is the latest victim.

On September 2, the NYT published his article titled “With Common Core, Fewer Topics but Covered More Rigorously.” Centered on Common Core math, the article implicitly praises New York officials who claim Common Core math is modeled on “the teaching strategies” of high-performing countries—especially “attention to memorization and recall, drilling around math facts.” The article ends with a paean to Achieve’s Next Generation Science Standards, described as “similarly attempt[ing] to lay out a coherent, challenging framework for what students need to learn in the 21st century,” despite the roasting the document got from reviewing scientists for the Fordham Institute.

On September 2, the NYT also published his article titled “Expecting the Best Yields Results in Massachusetts.” Starting with the 2011 TIMSS results, the article reports that Massachusetts came in second in science on the international test in grade 8. The explanation seems to be a “hands-on” approach. Digressing to math teaching, Chang reports that the town of Braintree requires all students to take Algebra I in grade 8 (in contrast to Common Core’s pushing it back to grade 9) and that the math standards dumped by the state board of education in 2010 in favor of Common Core were in a “good document because it contained no pedagogy.” All we learn about the science standards is that they expected kids to learn a sequence from solids and liquids to gases in K-2. Apparently, science “content” is a word that can’t be mentioned any more.

Perhaps Chang can talk to some scientists and cognitive psychologists (not science educators) in his next article about an alternate explanation for the unpardonable crime the Bay State committed. It has helped all students to achieve more in science and math, but it didn’t close the “gap” between the highest and lowest achievers.