Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Tower of Jell-o

As very quick search of news articles where Education Secretary Arne Duncan promoted or discussed Common Core returned 2,436 articles. Just sayin'.
This from Morning Education at Politico (via email):


It was less than a year ago that Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a no-holds-barred defense of the Common Core in a speech to newspaper editors. He cited example after example of the benefits of common standards: Teachers in different states could use the same lesson plans; children of military personnel could move across country "without a hitch" in their schooling; and, first and foremost, "a child in Mississippi will face the same expectations as a child in Massachusetts." In short: "I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education," Duncan said.

-- That was then. This was Tuesday:

"Just to be very clear with this group," Duncan told the House Appropriations Committee, "I'm just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they're common or not is sort of secondary."

-- Duncan immediately added that his stance was "not news."

And his spokeswoman, Dorie Nolt, later pulled up audio from a press breakfast in January where Duncan was asked about whether the term "Common Core" was politically radioactive. "We're not interested in the term," he responded then. "We're interested in high standards. There are a couple ways to come at it." Indeed, the administration has never required states to adopt the Common Core; it just offered financial and policy incentives to adopt higher standards - and embracing the Common Core happened to be by far the quickest and easiest way to hit that bar.

-- Still, it was clear from the start - and from the $360 million the department spent developing shared assessments - that the "common" in Common Core was quite important to the Obama administration. Duncan's decision to soft-pedal that goal may well be a nod to the new reality: Indiana recently became the first state to scrap the standards; Oklahoma and South Carolina may follow. More significantly, a number of the 44 Common Core states have ditched the common assessments and are going their own way.

-- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) reacted to Duncan's words with skepticism. "I certainly believe in high standards," he said, "but I think the 'common' word is something that's very hard to glaze over."


Anonymous said...

This darn state sovereignty is just ruining the feds game plan of common curriculum and assessments.

Same old thing, expert beats the drum of fear in order to lure/intimidate education community to a new, cure all approach to higher student performance. Before long term results of previous system can be determined they are scaped and professionals expected to retool and spend tons of money on the latest gymic. Really has U.S. history, literature, chemistry or Algebra really changed that much other than we put it all on an expensive lap top with some cool apps?

Anonymous said...

Are you telling me that the federal government spent a bunch of money to try to direct us toward what they thought was best for us and now it turns out it might have been wasted? That really suprises me that our leaders would try to force their agendas on us only to backpedal, not to mention that they would misuse our taxes? Wow!

Richard Day said...

April 9, 2014 at 8:43 PM: I don't see where state sovereignty has anything to do with it. The Kentucky legislature decided that it wanted to join other states and go this route. The legislature could have chosen otherwise - but didn't.

The feds didn't use fear so far as I'm aware. What they did use was the power of the purse. If you want federal dollars, here's what you have to do to get them - CCSS, Charters, data systems, use test scores for teacher evaluation, high stakes assessments and elaborate accountability systems....CCSS is the best (and arguably only good) idea of the bunch.

It's not the same old thing either. The same old thing would be for high school diplomas to not necessarily means that a student was ready for advanced work. Expensive zero credit developmental classes in college are the same old thing.

April 9, 2014 at 10:55 PM: Not exactly. The effort to build common standards has not been wasted - in most places the work continues unabated - but it has become a political ping pong ball.

What I'm telling you is that this Republican idea was adopted by Rs and Ds pretty uniformly. After all, setting curriculum standards that target college and career readiness and are substantially uniform from state to state is a good idea. Both sides sold Common Core. But a couple of years after the feds got on board (and made it a part of RTTT) the conservative Rs and a good number of Ds decided that the issue could be used as a wedge. Since then it appears that Duncan has been directed to never say the words "common core" again. So now we get weasel words instead of leadership. Curriculum standards were a good idea then, and they are a good idea now. But they suffer under the weight of politics.

I can't say that RTTT wasted tax dollars, but it was not particularly sound education policy in my mind. CCSS was the best part of RTTT but it got politicized and tainted in the process.

I suppose the feds came to realize that they had ultimately hurt something they meant to support.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, fear might have been to strong but certainly coercion isn't an understatement when state coffers are running dry and feds are waving competitive bucks under state leaders' noses - but I did get a sense of urgency that we had to be first in line for accepting the CC et other stuff or (fearfully) risk losing out to other states in RTTT.

I still contend that state sovereignty (dare we even say superintendent and district independence) is the greatest challenge to all of these efforts to standardize curriculum, assessment, etc. USA is never going to compete with Finland, Singapore, etc that have centralized educational control for the entire nation under national control. As much as some folks want some sort of national standardization, I just don't see it happening in the absence of constitutional mandate and with states as diverse as California, Louisana, North Dakota and Massachusetts.