On Common Core, a Study in Contrasts

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In a front-page article in June, the Washington Post featured corporate billionaire Bill Gates as a political sinner who deserves sainthood because his heart is in the right place.  He bought off every organization in the country and colluded with the U.S. Department of Education just to ensure that low-income students would get the same low education he wants other people’s kids to get.  Not, mind you, his own kids; they will get a first-class non-Common Core education in a private school in Seattle.

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]What remains to be teased out is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and our major teacher unions were so willing to be “useful idiots.”[/quote]

On the other hand, the National Review Online featured a blog in June about Jenni White, the energetic mother of six who managed to get Oklahoma to reject Common Core officially.  No front page feature article about her in any national newspaper.  Her group of activist mothers doesn’t have the money Gates has to bribe everyone to promote Common Core for other people’s children.  Her group of moms just wants a say in their own children’s education because they want a stronger curriculum than Common Core’s standards lead to.

What remains to be teased out is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and our major teacher unions were so willing to be “useful idiots.”  Why did the teacher unions agree to hold all teachers accountable for students’ scores on tests based on standards that are not only not internationally benchmarked (not comparable with the best sets of standards in high-achieving countries) but also lead to inequities in what is taught across school districts and states?  (No pathway to calculus in Common Core’s math standards, unless mathematically sophisticated parents in high-performing school districts demand them.)  How did their unions ever agree to tie teachers’ evaluations to tests based on Gates’ ludicrous “national” standards, whether next year or in several more years?

The trust that parents once had in their public schools has been ruptured—for good.   But Duncan/Fordham/Coleman et al probably don’t care so long as the cut scores (passing scores) on Common Core-based tests can be set in a way to provide “evidence” that Common Core has “rigorous” standards.  And the budget item recently passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives suggests that there is no shortage of legislators in this country who will believe whatever their state board, commissioner, and department of education tell them.

$5,000,000 shall be used for the one-time, non-recurring costs associated with the development and field testing of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Careers (PARCC) exam, so-called; provided further, that the PARCC exam shall not be adopted as the Commonwealth’s graduation standard nor for any high stakes assessment, until the field testing has shown that it is equal or greater in rigor than the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. 

One might wonder why Massachusetts legislators are spending $5,000,000 for a test that may be no better than the one already in place but is clearly less rigorous. The MCAS exam that the PARCC exam will replace is given in grade 10, while the PARCC test for high school graduation is to be given in grade 11.  Moreover, students who pass the PARCC test will be declared college ready and entitled to credit-bearing coursework in their freshman year at Massachusetts institutions of higher education.  No such reward was available for passing the grade 10 MCAS.

Bottom line: Massachusetts taxpayers may be shelling out $5 million for a test that may be no more difficult than the test already in place but which lets students bypass not only a year or two of high school coursework but also possible placement in remedial coursework in college.  And we have not factored in where a cut score, or passing score, might be set on the PARCC test.  And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce thinks Common Core’s standards and tests increase academic achievement!