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Let’s Help NEA’s Dennis Van Roekel Forsake His Common Core “Guessing”

January 18, 2014

It seems that National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel is willing to ignore the “forest” of the spectrum of top-down, punitive, privatizer-friendly, anti-democratic, community-school-destroying reforms in favor of the “tree” of his narrow focus on issues regarding concerns over specific items in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In this January 14, 2014, Education Week article, Van Roekel maintains that he has yet to hear anyone offer disagreement over CCSS specifics.

He also “challenges” CCSS opponents to offer “a better alternative” to a set of standards he defends yet refers to as “a guess”:

The standards have been politically attacked in the states—and by some of the union’s own members—but in an interview, the union’s president challenged naysayers to produce a better alternative. 

“When I sit on panels and someone chastises us for supporting the common core, I always ask: ‘Are there specific things you believe should not be there?’ I never get an answer,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “Second, I ask, “What’s missing?’ I don’t get an answer. And the third thing I ask is, ‘What is the alternative? What do you want? Standards all over the ballpark, tests all over the ballpark?’ ” 

In point of fact, Van Roekel continued, “the Common Core State Standards are our best guess of what students need to know to be successful, whether they choose college or careers. If someone has a better answer than that, I want to see it.”  [Emphasis added.]

Well, Van Roekel, since apparently no one else across our nation has been able to respond to your questions (tongue in cheek), allow me.

A “Specific” That Should Not Be In the Standards

I teach sophomore English, and here’s a standard I believe should not “be there”:

By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

This standard completely ignores how students develop the prior knowledge necessary in order to critically approach texts. It sounds good on the surface to say that I should be able to hand a “high end” text over to my students and have them “comprehend…  independently and proficiently.” However, the reality is that they ask for assistance from me, their teacher, because I am 46 and they are 15, and they learn by interacting with me as I broaden their exposure to the world via my own.

In short, this standard ignores the fact that students learn via active and dynamic relationship with their teachers. The building of a student’s knowledge base involves continuous exchange between teacher and student. It also requires a teacher’s expert opinion to determine when and to what degree a student is able to handle a text on his or her own.

Moreover, the standard advocates that “one size fits all,” that all of my students are automatons who will be on grade level with reading when they arrive in my classroom and that I should be able to move them forward at the same rate, a rate “equaling” one year of reading comprehension. This standard assumes sameness. It assumes that I have no students with reading disabilities; no students who are English Language Learners, and no students whose personal lives and personalities have interfered with their time in school.

The standard also dictates how I am to teach– that “by the end of grade 10,” I am to hand the text over to my students and not interact with them and the text in order to teach.

What I have written above is not “my best guess”; what I have written is based upon two decades of classroom experience, with 13 of those years spent teaching high school English.

“What’s Missing” From the Standards

The entire democratic process is “missing” from the standards. CCSS is as “top-down” as it gets, and with a dash of “facilitated democracy” to offer pseudo-legitimacy: Teachers were brought in late in the process to offer “suggestions” that were even implemented word-for-word. However, no teacher was asked whether CCSS should happen in the first place, and no teacher in a “state” (only a governor and state super needed to sign the CCSS contract with USDOE for RTTT funds) that has adopted CCSS has the freedom to opt out.

Democracy is missing from CCSS, Mr. Van Roekel, and I assure you that I am not the only teacher who has a problem with that.

Alternatives to CCSS

Now, allow me to “offer Van Roekel a better alternative. My school district, St. Tammany Parish (Louisiana), drafted an anti-CCSS resolution in October 2013. Included is the following language:

WHEREAS, our belief is that Common Core State Standards do not justify the disruption to instruction, accountability, professional development and teacher preparation that follows adoption of these standards and PARCC assessments in our system; and we further believe that the Guaranteed Curriculum, state approved, adopted and implemented in the St. Tammany Parish Public School System meets the needs of every child, every day in St. Tammany Parish. [Emphasis added.]

So, there’s an answer as to “a better alternative” than disrupting my school district to implement a set of standards that Van Roekel refers to as “a best guess.”

Do you know why Van Roekel is right in calling CCSS a “guess”?

Those credited with “owning” CCSS— the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)– refused to pilot their “standards” prior to handing them off to Arne Duncan to include as part of Race to the Top (RTTT). In fact, CCSS was not even completed before governors and state superintendents contracted with USDOE to institute CCSS.

Finally, allow me to point out that the Gates-funded, pro-CCSS Fordham Institute even graded standards from numerous other states as equal to or superior to CCSS:

Based on our observations, the Common Core standards are clearly superior to those currently in use in thirty-nine states in math and thirty-seven states in English. For thirty-three states, the Common Core is superior in both math and reading.

However, three jurisdictions boast ELA standards that are clearly superior to the Common Core: California, the District of Columbia, and Indiana. Another eleven states have ELA standards that are in the same league as the Common Core (or “too close to call”).

Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have math standards in the “too close to call” category, meaning that, overall, they are at least as clear and rigorous as the Common Core standards. [Emphasis added.]

If Van Roekel wants to see standards rated as equal to or better than CCSS, he need only read Fordham’s 2010 report. Not that Fordham has eased it’s pushing CCSS upon states that it has determined does not need them. Fordham remains faithful to Bill Gates’ money, just as Van Roekel is doing.

As is true of the CCSS-pushing American Federation of Teachers (AFT), NEA has taken millions in Gates money expressly to promote CCSS:

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts
Amount: $3,882,600 [Emphasis added.]

This point of funding brings us back to the January 14, 2014, Education Week article. For almost $4 million from Gates, NEA’s Van Roekel is promoting “free” CCSS lessons based upon a “guess” at reformer-pushed standards:

In point of fact, Van Roekel continued, “the Common Core State Standards are our best guess of what students need to know to be successful, whether they choose college or careers. If someone has a better answer than that, I want to see it.” 

And that’s why the union wanted to create a year’s worth of what Van Roekel called “classroom ready” lesson plans aligned to the common core, and available to teachers for free. [Emphasis added.]

“The union wanted to create these lessons”… after it received $3.8 million from Gates in July 2013– the same month that NEA formally endorsed CCSS.

And NEA seems to be singing Bill’s song when it calls CCSS a “guess.” In September 2013, Gates acknowledged that he would not know “for probably a decade” if his “education stuff” has “worked.”

“Guessing” about what one insists upon cramming down the public school throat is okay so long as one is above being directly affected by the detrimental consequences.

A Challenge to My Teaching Colleagues

Van Roekel insists that teachers have offered no problematic specifics regarding CCSS. So, I challenge my teaching colleagues nationwide to do so in the comments section of this post.

By way of getting the standards concerns rolling, allow me to offer this grade 7 math standard and subsequent explanation by veteran teacher and education blogger Gary Rubinstein:

CCSS.Math.Content.7.NS.A.2a Understand that multiplication is extended from fractions to rational numbers by requiring that operations continue to satisfy the properties of operations, particularly the distributive property, leading to products such as (–1)(–1) = 1 and the rules for multiplying signed numbers. Interpret products of rational numbers by describing real-world contexts.

(Note:  If you don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t worry.  Most people don’t know that math majors in abstract algebra, during junior year of college, learn that rather than justifying that a negative times a negative is a positive, informally any number of ways, you learn that since -1 * 0 = 0, which means -1 * (-1+1) = 0 (since -1+1=0, additive inverse property) and then, by the distributive property (which says a * (b+c) = ab + ac) (-1) * (-1) + (-1)*1 = 0, but since 1 is the multiplicative identity, (-1)*(-1) – 1=0, but then if you add 1 to both sides, you get (-1)*(-1)=1, Q.E.D.)

This standard is too advanced for seventh grade mathematics. I write this not as an English teacher but as a Ph.D. in applied statistics… and as one with common sense.

Van Roekel needs us, American teachers.

What he will choose to do with our words is anyone’s “guess.”

25 Comments
  1. joseph permalink

    The NEA fails to realize that the Common Core is the medium to computerize teaching jobs http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/17/rise-of-the-machines-economist_n_4616931.html

  2. Here are a couple of missing pieces: I can find no ELA standard in the primary or kindergarten section that addresses the teaching of sight words. This is one of the major components in learning to read. The “close reading” standards do not recommend using any pre-reading strategies or the activation or teaching of background knowledge. These are not “guesses” about what’s needed; rather they are research-based requirements to be able to learn to read well.

  3. ira shor permalink

    Yes, Van Roekel is for sale, as is Weingarten; Gates has more than enough to buy both of them. The dishonesty of Van R. is suffocating, as if a legion of educators, scholars, and researchers have not already been denouncing CCSS as age-inappropriate and a stalking-horse for ultra-standardization/computerization of teaching and learning. Many have also been announcing alternatives to it. Just this week I observed one distressing outcome of CCSS standards in my son’s elementary school. 5th graders were apparently drilled in the ELA standard to summarize contents of a text, a first-person account by a survivor of the Titanic(non-fiction). Every hand-written paragraph began with the exact same sentence, no variations, something like, “When your life is in danger, people come up with different ways to save themselves.” Seems likely that the teacher gave them this uniform intro sentence. The CCSS ELA standard these paragraphs were supposedly demonstrating was listed on the board next to the student compositions, along with the numeric i.d. of that standard. Made me want to remove my child from that school before he becomes a word-spewing robot. Made me also want to increase my opposition to CCSS.

    • Mary Meredith Drew permalink

      I’m sure you know this sentence, as well as suffering from redundancy, is not grammatically correct. Correct alternatives: “When your life is in danger, you will think of different ways to save yourself.” Or, “When their lives are in danger, people come up with different ways to save themselves.”
      What a boring sentence.

    • Karrie McCoy permalink

      I saw this same thing in my neighbor’s daughter’s work that was shown to me. My neighbor’s daughter is a third grader. She had to answer questions about a book that the class had read. Every single sentence ended with “…and I know this is true because I read it on page…”. My neighbor told me that the teacher instructed the children to write that whenever they answer a question about anything they have read.

  4. Thanks for your efforts at schooling Mr. Van Roekel. Here is a limk to ten of my articles on specific concerns for the Common Core in ELA.

    http://russonreading.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-compilation-of-common-core-concerns.html

  5. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    “Our best guess of what students need to know to be successful, whether they choose college or careers”…..Who is the “our” in this uninformed defense of the standards? Why are the people who actually wrote the standards not front and center defending the process and the specific decisions that were made?
    Unfortunately too few teachers have the time to check the credibility of the claims that go with the CCSS.
    Anyone who thinks Kindergarten kids should be judged as career and college ready before they enter 1st grade–and this reasoning is the bottom line for each grade–is either mouthing a slogan or committed to a philosophy of education that is free of any civic purpose in a democratic society.
    In addition to this extremely truncated view of the purposes of education–getting ready for a “career and college”– the CCSS have not been informed by any coherent view of learning or within and across the grades.
    Why, for example, are there more standards for geometry than any other topic in math?
    Why does a grade 9/10 standard suggest an essay on Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s “Landscape with the Fall of 
Icarus.” This standard recycles a benchmark assignment in Achieve’s American Diploma Project, which in turn, came from an Introductory English Survey Course at Sam Houston University, Huntsville, TX. See pp. 105-106 “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts” at http://www.achieve.org/readyornot
    Why do advocates of the CCSS insist that the standards be addressed verbatim and, at the same time, say the standards have nothing to do with “curriculum?” Andrew Porter, former president of the American Educational Research Association (among others) has clearly stated the CCSS are the de facto national curriculum, see Porter, A.; McMaken ,J.; Hwang, J. ; & Yang, R. (2011). Common core standards: The new U.S. intended curriculum. Educational Researcher, 40(3). 103-116.
    David Coleman, architect of the standards, who takes pride in not knowing about education, has masterminded this absurd, stripped down, thrown together agenda of 1.620 standards (including parts a-e) as if this version of the 3Rs is world class, internationally benchmarked, and so on. Nonsense. The international standard for elite education remains a balanced program of studies in the arts, sciences, and humanities with at least one foreign language.
    The CCSS are uninformed by the wisdom of the best and brightest teachers and thinkers in education. They are intended to drive a stake into the heart of teaching that is influenced by the wonderful and worrisome reality that students are in the process of learning what life offers and requires beyond “mastering” absurdly parsed academic content, and going to college and getting a job.

    • Fran Chase permalink

      When you consider that Walmart is the largest employer in the US and Canada. It begs the question what career are we truly preparing our students for. In addition the cost of a college education has become so expensive who is going to pay for it. Everyone isn’t going to qualify for a scholarship.

  6. The “well, then, if you don’t like CCSS, what should we have instead” line bugged the heck out of me when I heard about him unloading it at the NEA conference this summer, and it bugs the heck out of me know. In just that phrase, he shows how much he accepts the arguments of the opponents of public education. That phrase accepts, among other things, that public education is in crisis and teachers can’t do their jobs. That is not what I expect to hear from the president of my union. The complete rant is here

    http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-van-roekel-should-go.html

  7. As a first grade teacher, having taught second grade as well for about half of my teaching career, I can’t say it loud enough…THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS ARE DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD LEARNERS!!!!!

  8. Something better than Common Core? Take a look at what the top countries are doing in there schools, and also pay attention to the weaknesses which those educational plans have. Students in China, for example, are well trained in memorization for tests, but have limited success in maintaining that “knowledge” or in thinking creatively. High stakes testing such as Chinese schools use are not good at creating the kinds of learners who become skilled, creative innovators, workers, and entrepreneurs. Successes in Sweden are much more in line with what is needed in the US. We should take a page from their lesson plans, as should the administrators and policy makers in our country (who are not themselves teachers) by staying out of the way of dedicated, experienced teachers across our nation. Teachers themselves are the experts who should be driving program development and educational initiatives; administrators and policy makers should insist that teachers strive for consistent improvements in teaching practice, and should allow the experts (the teachers!) to determine what those changes should be and how to go about making those advancements. Oh yes, and the administrators and policy makers–after having so insisted–should provide systemic, institutional, material, and fiscal supports needed to successfully implement those changes!

  9. ColoMom permalink

    Dennis Van Roekel was paid $389,620 in fiscal year 2012 as president of the National Education Association (NEA), America’s largest labor union. http://www.redstate.com/jasonahart/2013/01/04/meet-the-bosses-of-the-national-education-association/

    NEA received $3.8 million from Gates in July 2013– the same month that NEA formally endorsed CCSS.

    I think the term is called “hush money” .

  10. joseph permalink

    Here is a beginning!
    I want every material developed to implement the Common Core to be reviewed and assessed by teachers over a three year period before their implementation. This was always done in schools.

  11. “Van Roekel needs us, American teachers.

    What he will choose to do with our words is anyone’s ‘guess’.”

    This response is indicative of the problem. I say Gates and Van Roekel should be deposed (and Weingarten–as, if she were against CCSS and VAM as she claims…Wait. Did she make claims regarding CCSS?…why does she stay with AFT? Could it be career staging? Clearly it’s not the money. I mean living in Easthampton takes a lot of moolah). Stop paying your dues. If the unions are truly the teachers (I hear this all the time), then start over. Impose your own standards. The corporate elite have used so-called “liberals” because they know that real liberalism is dead. Time for radical action. Of course, it’s a traditional thing that teachers are not radicals. I hear all the cries and see all the finger pointing. Yet, I also see that most teachers whimper and cry and return to their classrooms as the corporate steamroller moves closer and closer. That we should wait around and see what Van Roekel or other highly fed corporate capitalist sympathizers say or do, what those so-called, self-named liberals who serve the corporate state, might “…choose to do with our words…” IS the problem.

    Consider the whole forest of what’s in store for not only we as teachers, but in the larger context of the encroachment of an authoritarian, corporate state and the deleterious effects on American citizens, the environment, and humanity at large. They are after our pensions. Have you read your recent report from the board of directors of your pension fund and how it’s so underfunded? I was told that those in our fund would have to “encourage a return to a fully funded retirement system through increased participation,” blaming the necessity for such a move (which, by the way, will not increase monthly benefits, now or in the future) on the “recession.” This is double speak for you will pay the bill for the Great Wall Street Heist perpetrated on the 99%. Wall Street bankers robbed the planet and we are the ones stuck with the bill? In just a few years, teachers will have 401(k)’s and defined benefits programs will finally meet their end as vulture capitalism seeks out more and more sources of profit. At the expense of everything under the sun. And the only outrage I’ve seen is by, not liberal losers, but by radical progressives. I see teachers marching in Mexico. By the hundreds of thousands. Where’s the outrage from all the teachers in America? What are you waiting for? I suppose teachers in America will rise up only when the corporate state has taken everything, when you’ve got nothing to lose as you’ve lost it all. When a replacing of all teachers and administrators with a corps of TFAs within corporate run school systems is well underway.

    Get a grip folks. Organize. And I’m not talking about organizing to just opt out of state testing (although National Opt Out is a worthy cause as is this blog) and to oppose other forces squeezing out teacher autonomy, free and public education, but the destruction and privatization of the common weal–nationwide. Take a risk, organize. Revolt or stop with the whining and prattling. This attack on public education is but one target set for destruction by the authoritarian power of the controlling elite. Waiting to see what our corporate masters will do or say is not a winning strategy.

    [P.S. Mercedes Schneider is much smarter than I regarding what’s happening in education. Way smarter. I read her blogs with keen interest as they are to the point and hard hitting. Her research is to be admired. I’m sure she will continue her role as a leader in education when people stop waiting to see what the corporate state will say or do next, when a revolt, en masse, comes. As it surly will.]

  12. Comment on a listserv of which I am a member:

    The link below shows this Education Week article:

    http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2014/01/nea_and_firm_unveil_curricula.html?qs=In+Strong+Common-Core+Endorsement,+NEA+and+Firm+Unveil+Curricula+by+%27Master+Teachers%27

    That article in turn mentions the BetterLesson consortium that NEA joined to create CCSS-aligned lesson plans.

    I like the BetterLesson algebra learning example for Algebra I that calls for students to play bingo for 25 minutes.

    http://cc.betterlesson.com/lesson/520932/the-language-of-algebra

    Scroll down to the section titled “Group Activity.”

    Spending 25 minutes learning how to cover B25 isn’t the same thing as learning that the point (2,3) on an xy axis always list the x number first and the y number second and that both the x and y axis can also have negative numbers (anyone know how to plot negative B25?).

    I’m not sure this activity has much value for teaching algebra, but I’ll be happy to hear disagreements.

    • Hi Mercedes,

      First, thanks for your work. The Bingo example is something that many administrators, from the building level on up would gush over.

      The idea that the people who created our often lame textbooks, assessments, and curriculum suddenly became empowered and able to create high quality and appropriate material once the CCSS released them from 20th Century thinking…is beyond ludicrous. Yet, an astonishing number of people believe this. We are being forced, more each year, to conform to a narrow range of teaching practices and curricula–many of which will be laughed about a decade from now.

      Every year, I try to show my algebra students the many ways that people use numbers to manipulate, fool, and cheat the innumerate among us. Big data, bogus research, massaged statistics all show how little the Education Industrial Complex thinks of us. Sadly, it is working out pretty well for them.

      Thanks for fighting the good fight.

  13. Nimbus permalink

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

    Let’s start with statements by David Coleman and Jason Zimba and Sue Pimentel. Heck, let’s start with non-educator Coleman telling educators HOW to teach “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Proceed to Zimba asserting that the math standards won’t make students ready for pre-calculus or four-year colleges.
    Proceed to those statements by Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee and Steve Perry. In particular, I like “identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.” Shall we now include the pro-CC$$’article in The Economist? Anything Jeb Bush supports? Dennis Van Roekel himself? Chris Cerf? Andrew Cuomo? John King? Cami What’s-her-name a firing principals?

    And this.
    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

    Yes, let’s talk about the 4th amendment, Arne Duncan’s changing of FERPA law, and inBloom. Why should an English teacher be teaching this? Why is Van Roekel supporting these inferior (at the top) and inappropriate (in the early grades) standards.

    To respond to one of your posters, pensions is why I remain anonymous.

  14. The real question is why he is still head of the NEA…

  15. For what little it’s worth — except perhaps a bit of irony — the ELA standard cited in Ms. Schneider’s post has another problem: it’s poorly written.

  16. One only has to look to Wilson’s ““Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at:
    http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/577/700 to understand just how ontologically and epistemologically bereft any educational standard is. Educational standards are a farce from the gitgo, no getting around that fact, Jack!

    Brief outline of Wilson’s “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” and some comments of mine. (updated 6/24/13 per Wilson email)

    1. A quality cannot be quantified. Quantity is a sub-category of quality. It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category by only a part (sub-category) of the whole. The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that “assessments are always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as one dimensional quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error” (per Wilson). The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify educational standards and standardized testing we are lacking much information about said interactions.

    2. A major epistemological mistake is that we attach, with great importance, the “score” of the student, not only onto the student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of the student and the testing device at a given time and place. The only correct logical thing that we can attempt to do is to describe that interaction (how accurately or not is a whole other story). That description cannot, by logical thought, be “assigned/attached” to the student as it cannot be a description of the student but the interaction. And this error is probably one of the most egregious “errors” that occur with standardized testing (and even the “grading” of students by a teacher).
    3. Wilson identifies four “frames of reference” each with distinct assumptions (epistemological basis) about the assessment process from which the “assessor” views the interactions of the teaching and learning process: the Judge (think college professor who “knows” the students capabilities and grades them accordingly), the General Frame-think standardized testing that claims to have a “scientific” basis, the Specific Frame-think of learning by objective like computer based learning, getting a correct answer before moving on to the next screen, and the Responsive Frame-think of an apprenticeship in a trade or a medical residency program where the learner interacts with the “teacher” with constant feedback. Each category has its own sources of error and more error in the process is caused when the assessor confuses and conflates the categories.

    4. Wilson elucidates the notion of “error”: “Error is predicated on a notion of perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology, practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less than impeccable.”

    In other word all the logical errors involved in the process render any conclusions invalid.
    5. The test makers/psychometricians, through all sorts of mathematical machinations attempt to “prove” that these tests (based on standards) are valid-errorless or supposedly at least with minimal error [they aren’t]. Wilson turns the concept of validity on its head and focuses on just how invalid the machinations and the test and results are. He is an advocate for the test taker not the test maker. In doing so he identifies thirteen sources of “error”, any one of which renders the test making/giving/disseminating of results invalid. As a basic logical premise is that once something is shown to be invalid it is just that, invalid, and no amount of “fudging” by the psychometricians/test makers can alleviate that invalidity.

    6. Having shown the invalidity, and therefore the unreliability, of the whole process Wilson concludes, rightly so, that any result/information gleaned from the process is “vain and illusory”. In other words start with an invalidity, end with an invalidity (except by sheer chance every once in a while, like a blind and anosmic squirrel who finds the occasional acorn, a result may be “true”) or to put in more mundane terms crap in-crap out.

    7. And so what does this all mean? I’ll let Wilson have the second to last word: “So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants the test to be named.”

    In other words it measures “’something’ and we can specify some of the ‘errors’ in that ‘something’ but still don’t know [precisely] what the ‘something’ is.” The whole process harms many students as the social rewards for some are not available to others who “don’t make the grade (sic)” Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?

    My answer is NO!!!!!

    One final note with Wilson channeling Foucault and his concept of subjectivization:

    “So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self-evident consequences. And so the circle is complete.”

    In other words students “internalize” what those “marks” (grades/test scores) mean, and since the vast majority of the students have not developed the mental skills to counteract what the “authorities” say, they accept as “natural and normal” that “story/description” of them. Although paradoxical in a sense, the “I’m an “A” student” is almost as harmful as “I’m an ‘F’ student” in hindering students becoming independent, critical and free thinkers. And having independent, critical and free thinkers is a threat to the current socio-economic structure of society.

  17. Diane Payne permalink

    First, it is really hard to imagine that DVR is the leader of a teacher’s union. He sure sounds much more like a corporate reformer. My take on the CCSS is from a kindergarten teacher perspective. Where, in the kindergarten standards, can you find the developmentally appropriate practices that young children need to grow and develop and yes to eventually succeed academically. There is nothing in this language that acknowledges the learning conditions and needs of young children as illustrated in so much of the research.

  18. Louisiana Purchase permalink

    What’s missing? Art, music, history, civics, geography, etc. What’s also missing is buy-in from the people who it affects directly: students, teachers and parents. Most of my colleagues have liked the standards less and less the more they are forced to work with them.

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  2. Guest Column: Not All Teachers Are Supportive Of The New Common Core Standards In NH - NH Labor News

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