How to Turn a Sow’s Ear into a Silk Purse

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Gates, Duncan, Fordham et al misunderstood from the beginning who the strongest critics of Common Core would be.  Just because they successfully sold Common Core as a workforce development panacea to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce didn’t mean that mothers across the country were going to give up fighting for their children’s education when they saw what was being taught to their children in the name of Common Core.  Every year of education their kids lose, the angrier they get.  And the Gates-funded or influenced sources have fired their last cannons.

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]”Most elected local school boards, in most states, still have the legal authority (and responsibility) to try to give their students a decent education in K-12 at the taxpayers’ expense.”[/quote]

We will probably never know why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed to support secondary school standards in reading, mathematics, and science that will lead to a workforce incapable of the critical thinking and deeper learning to be found in well-constructed robots.  But they must know now that half of the states that were seduced into adopting Common Core’s standards and assessments are trying to get out of the sticky jar of molasses they were dropped into by their state board of education, governor, or commissioner of education and staff (or all of them together).  Maybe these folks thought they were getting a free lunch in exchange for a free set of standards constructed by “education experts.”

Here are some ideas for ways to mitigate this bad deal, either through a governor’s executive order, a bill approved by the state legislature, or a local school board vote.  Remember, most elected local school boards, in most states, still have the legal authority (and responsibility) to try to give their students a decent education in K-12 at the taxpayers’ expense.

First and foremost, states and school districts need to develop:

I. Multiple sets of secondary standards (grades 6-12)

At present, the same K-5 standards can be used for all grades.    The state can incentivize use of a strong math program like the original Singapore math program for K-5 and use teacher-made tests.

For grades 6-8, require development of four optional (for students) accelerated pathways to be made available, including a Common Core pathway called the “floor” if you are stuck with it.  The basic rule is that there cannot be just a floor; all five pathways must be available.  There should be no admission test for any pathway.  Students must simply be informed in advance what work they need to do each year (for example, sample titles of major novels to be assigned or how much daily practice time expected for a musical instrument) and at what pace they will be required to work.  Students can change pathways at any time until grade 11, with summer coursework available for missed coursework in the new pathway. Each pathway must require coursework in ELA, math, and U.S. history/geography each year, with content tailored to the pathway.

1.  Optional accelerated sequence in math/science for STEM beginning in 6.

2.  Optional accelerated sequence for foreign languages/humanities beginning in 6

3.  Optional accelerated sequence for performing arts beginning in 6.

4.  Optional accelerated sequence for technical/occupational trades beginning in 6.

5.  Optional Common Core-based sequence continuing from grade 5.

II. Multiple sets of exit exams, certificates, and high school diplomas

Each accelerated pathway must culminate with its own exit exam and/or certificate, worked out with higher education teaching faculty or business/industry/unions in the area.   The high school diploma should indicate the pathway and exit exam passed (or certificate obtained).

III. New testing framework for K-12

Mainly teacher-made tests in grades 3-8; no state or federal/national tests from K-8.  End-of-course exams in high school can be constructed for the district, county, or state by the teachers in it with the assistance of and vetting by higher education faculty in their own state. 

IV. Matriculation tests for college admission

1.  College admission tests need to be developed by teaching faculty in the arts and sciences at a state’s post-secondary public institutions for statewide use.

2.  Three different levels of performance can be determined, for community colleges, four-year colleges, and state universities.

V.  Higher academic bar for admission to elementary preparation programs

All prospective teachers for pre-school to grade 8 must come from top 10% of those graduating from an academic accelerated pathway, as determined by class rank based on Grade Point Average, not from the Common Core pathway. The newly revised SAT tests are useless for any purpose as they are aligned with Common Core, and it’s unclear what ACT has done.