Monday, June 16, 2014

Educators say Kentucky is on the right track with Common Core standards

There’s at least one reason why David Adams should never be quoted on education issues in credible publications. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (And he’s personally dishonorable, but let’s set that aside.)

David Adams
In the space of five paragraphs in today’s Common Core article in the Herald-Leader, reporter Matt Young only got two things right about David Adams. He did sue the state, and conservative opponents of Common Core fear a federal takeover. Perhaps due to that fear, or perhaps due to an anti-US government predisposition, or perhaps because an anonymous donor paid him to say so, Adams has proven that he is willing to repeatedly make untrue statements that he can’t back up. At some point don’t sound journalistic principles require the reporter to state when one’s opinions are not borne out in fact? 

Adams says Common Core standards are just more of the same. In fact, the Common Core standards are the nation’s first attempt to connect a high school diploma to the skills needed to be college and career ready. This was Ed Prichard’s dream.

David Adams is a Tea Party activist who filed a lawsuit against the state over the implementation of Common Core. But Young fails to mention that his suit was thrown out for Adams’ failure to present a cogent case. Adams filed paperwork to appeal his defeat and then, once again, completely failed to make a case. Adams' claims have been tried in court and found lacking. Don’t readers deserve to know that?

Adams claimed Kentucky colleges support Common Core because doing so will bring them more money. How? I can’t see where colleges profit one cent. Colleges profit when students arrive at college ready to be successful in credit bearing courses. Those students are retained and graduate at much higher rates and colleges profit from that success.

Anyone who cannot see differences in American schooling since 1965 is simply not trying. American schools were desegregated using a combination of ESEA and court actions. While I realize that Adams may, or may not believe desegregated schools to be desirable (or the 14th amendment for that matter) nevertheless, the percentage of black students attending school with whites grew exponentially. Over the years, more students have been educated at much higher levels.

Common Core was written specifically because some states were lowering their individual state standards. Shared standards make for a better yardstick and prevent states from gaming the system. Adams’ empty assertion completely fails to demonstrate how lowering standards profits anyone - because it doesn’t.

The steady stream of falsehoods from Adams surely should prompt the H-L toward a higher standard of journalism; one that goes beyond finding that opposition voice, but also extends to actually verifying the credibility of that voice, and warning readers when the information is suspect.

This from the Herald-Leader:
The names of the presidents of the University of Louisville and Kentucky State University were noticeably absent last week from a group of more than 200 national college leaders who indicated their support for the controversial Common Core education standards by forming the coalition Higher Ed for Higher Standards.

James Ramsey
U of L spokesman Mark Hebert said it was an oversight that President James Ramsey's name was not on last week's list, and he reaffirmed U of L's backing of Common Core. Attempts to reach officials at Kentucky State University were unsuccessful.

Both schools previously showed their support by signing the College and Career Readiness Commonwealth Agreement.

The presidents of Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky were among more than 17 Kentucky higher education officials to join the national initiative.

EKU President Michael Benson said in a statement that he was proud of EKU and the commonwealth's support of Common Core.

"It is imperative that we have high school graduates who are better prepared
academically for college and career," Benson said. "The Common Core standards will help accomplish this goal and will allow many more students to bypass developmental education courses currently being offered in college."
Jay Blanton, spokesman for UK, said that not only did President Eli Capilouto support Common Core, but faculty feel that "innovations like the Common Core standards are foundational building blocks, critical to students having the skills they need to succeed in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields that are so essential to our country's economic growth."
Michael Benson

The Common Core standards are an initiative of the National Governors Association to set benchmarks for what children in each grade should learn. However, there is no set curriculum for each grade, creating flexibility in reaching the standards. Individual states, school districts and teachers may determine their own curricula and lesson plans to fit the individual needs of children.
Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core standards in an attempt to help make students college and career ready. Math and reading standards have been implemented, and state education Commissioner Terry Holliday has said Kentucky schools will institute the science standards in the fall.

Statistics from the Council on Postsecondary Education show that during the 2012-13 academic year, nearly half of all incoming students at two-year colleges, and more than one in five at four-year schools, were required to take remedial courses due to a lack of academic preparedness.

Graduation rates at Kentucky colleges also are a cause for concern; less than half of all students graduate from a four-year institution with a bachelor's degree within their first six years. At community colleges and two-year institutions just over one in 10 students graduate within the first three years.

Opponents of Common Core say the standards are just more of the same.

David Adams, a Tea Party activist who filed a lawsuit last year against Gov. Steve Beshear over the implementation of Common Core, said Kentucky colleges support Common Core because doing so will bring them more money.

"Common Core will generate more revenue for the colleges, and we will be back here in X number of years wondering why remedial rates are even higher," he said.

For decades, critics such as Adams have said, federal programs have attempted to help students, but U.S. students have continued to fall behind other nations. From President Lyndon Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind, education reforms have come and gone with little or no results, they say.

Conservative opponents insist Common Core will be another waste of money that will not help students. "They will just keep lowering standards to meet goals to get funding," Adams said.
Conservatives also fear a federal takeover.

As designed, Common Core is an independent initiative adopted by states individually. President Barack Obama tied funding grants to the acceptance of "college and career ready" standards. According to a recent Washington Post article, an early version of Race to the Top specifically highlighted Common Core.

Gene Wilhoit, a former Kentucky education commissioner and one of the architects of Common Core, insisted the Obama administration change the wording because they did not want the federal government to be involved in Common Core. Even still, opponents of Common Core fear that requirements for education funding eventually will move from simply accepting standards to accepting federal curricula and lesson plans.
Gene Wilhoit

Liberal opponents of Common Core fear the program was designed to profit corporations, not students. Bill Gates, one of the primary financial backers of Common Core, has insisted that is not the case.

People with concerns about Common Core do not truly understand it, said Sue Cain, college readiness and developmental education initiative coordinator for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Cain, who has worked nationally with Common Core, is confident the standards will work.

"As the Common Core were written, Kentucky educators suggested many adjustments, changes, additions and fixes for things we thought went too far, beyond college-ready," she said. "Our changes were a part of the changes made to the overall standards."

Cain also said the standards would work because of the collaboration that took place at all education levels.

"Common Core is different because both postsecondary and K-12 came together to develop the standards that exist," she said. "Previously, they were not communicated well; this time with these standards that conversation is occurring."

Cain isn't worried about the possibility of a federal takeover of the standards. Even with the current Race to the Top grants, states could alter up to 15 percent of the standards to fit individual needs, she noted, adding that was done to help custom-fit education to work-force needs that vary around the country.

Cain said a federal takeover would not make sense because the standards were written to be adjusted.
Sue Cain
To those who fear Common Core will benefit special interests and corporations more than students, Cain said, "I wish they could see the Common Core in action. It's more than standards, it's more than assessments, it's more than accountability. This is to make sure students are ready to go to college or have a career."

So is it working? Education officials in Kentucky think it is. Data from the state Department of Education show that college and career readiness has jumped from 31.8 percent for 2009-10, just before the state adopted Common Core, to 54.1 percent for high school graduates in 2013.
But Cain said that was not good enough.

"We have got a long way to go in Kentucky, but we are on the right path. Every other state is watching our progress here in Kentucky. We are leading the nation in this."

Read more here:


Skip Kifer said...

I have no problem with advocacy. I do have problems with statements that are not defensible in any serious way. Here are a couple from this piece:

People with concerns about Common Core do not truly understand it, (Really)?

"I wish they could see the Common Core in action. It's more than standards, it's more than assessments, it's more than accountability. This is to make sure students are ready to go to college or have a career." (When did they become so more than? Perhaps they are more than education.)

In fact, the Common Core standards are the nation’s first attempt to connect a high school diploma to the skills needed to be college and career ready. This was Ed Prichard’s dream. (It would be interesting to know what Prichard might think about this kind of language. At best high school skills may be necessary for college success but they are not sufficient.)

Richard Day said...


Ha! In fact, I do not know what he dreamed about, but I think Prichard would be OK with the last comment. The language in his day was certainly not "common core," but in A Path to a Larger Life, while Prich was still alive, the Committee described a seamless system that ran from Kindergarten through college. They definitely saw a connection between what happens in HS and being ready for college.

There was no intended suggestion that one graduates high school ready to graduate college. Of course, more is needed.


Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,

Am far away at the moment. I want to make a statement about David Adams. Yes, he does not know all he should about Common Core, but do you for one moment believe any Kentucky superintendent knows the content of the standards? Not for a moment do I believe Tom Shelton knows anything about the standards he has asked educators to embrace.

If Tom is not feigning another heart attack, maybe he or another superintendt can tell us that they know nothing about the standards they are asking us to implement.

Skip Kifer said...


Not so sure about the Prichard business. One of the things I found refreshing in the book was a lack of education jargon. "The educated person should...." As opposed to claptrap like college and career readiness.


Richard Day said...

I have no clue how many superintendents have sat down and reviewed all of the CCSS standards. Could it be as many as 10%?

I think your underlying inference, that superintendents are simply going along and following the state lead, is likely correct. I don't see a lot of independent thinking in education. Never have.

One of the issues I grapple with in researching Prichard/Sexton is the proper historical placement of the group in late 20th century school reform and its connections to the corporate school reform movement. Corporate Ed Reform manifests itself a bit differently in Ky.

Prichard's concept was described thusly, "Education is a seamless web running from the earliest years through the highest levels of educational attainment." (Prichard, 1985, xiii)

As you know, the Prichard Committee began by looking at higher ed, and concluded that the whole system needed radical improvement.

Path to a Larger Life was influential to the Rose court and proposed major changes in seven areas, including curriculum, teacher preparation, assessment of student performance, and education finance. Prichard’s plan outlined a desirable set of knowledge expectations, and anticipated a connection with postsecondary education, such as “early admission of students,” but a set of curriculum standards that anchored a high school diploma to entry-level college standards did not yet exist (Prichard Committee 1990, 34).

Prichard pushed for the publication of school goals, the “identification of the competencies expected of all Kentucky high school graduates,” measurement of “the mastery of these competencies,” and assuring that a diploma is only awarded “when the student demonstrates that he or she has mastered the desired competencies…” (Prichard, 1990 [which is the 2nd edition], 32.)

In that sense, the philosophical connection to Common Core which followed is fairly clear.

Skip Kifer said...


The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education were issued in 1918 by the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education. The focus of this commission was to form objectives for secondary education. It was decided that segmented subjects and their subject matter were a way to achieve the decided goals but that they were not the one and only way. The commission was also instrumental in starting a standard of forming goals before reforming schools. Changes were needed because of increased enrollment in secondary schools. A new focus that would take into account individual differences, goals, attitudes, and abilities was adopted. The concept of democracy was decided on as the guide of education in America. Work on the Cardinal Principles was started in 1915 and finished in 1918. The seven Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education are as follows:

1. Health

A secondary school should encourage good health habits, give health instruction, and provide physical activities. Good health should be taken into account when schools and communities are planning activities for youth. The general public should be educated on the importance of good health. Teachers should be examples for good health and schools should furnish good equipment and safe buildings.

2. Command Of Fundamental Processes

Fundamental Processes are writing, reading, oral and written expression, and math. It was decided that these basics should be applied to newer material instead of using the older ways of doing things.

3. Worthy Home Membership

This principle "calls for the development of those qualities that make the individual a worthy member of a family, both contributing to and deriving benefit from that membership" (Raubinger, Rowe, Piper, West, 108). This principle should be taught through literature, music, social studies, and art. Co-ed schools should show good relationships between males and females. When trying to instill this principle in children the future as well as the present should be taken into account.

4. Vocation

The objective of this principle is that the student gets to know him or herself and a variety of careers so that the student can choose the most suitable career. The student should then develop an understanding of the relationship between the vocation and the community in which one lives and works. Those who are successful in a vocation should be the ones to teach the students in either the school or workplace.

5. Civic Education

The goal of civic education is to develop an awareness and concern for one's own community. A student should gain knowledge of social organizations and a commitment to civic morality. Diversity and cooperation should be paramount. Democratic organization of the school and classroom as well as group problem solving are the methods that this principle should be taught through.

6. Worthy Use Of Leisure

The idea behind this principle is that education should give the student the skills to enrich his/her body, mind, spirit and personality in his/her leisure. The school should also provide appropriate recreation. This principle should be taught in all subjects but primarily in music, art, literature, drama, social issues, and science.

7. Ethical Character

This principle involves instilling in the student the notion of personal responsibility and initiative. Appropriate teaching methods and school organization are the primary examples that should be used.

Naming these seven objectives does not "imply that the process of education can be divided into separated fields" (Raubinger, Rowe, Piper, West, 106). Therefore all of the seven principles are interrelated. In order for these principles to be successful the student must have a willingness to follow these and an ethical character that will allow this learning to take place.

Richard Innes said...

"I don't see a lot of independent thinking in education. Never have."

Richard, are you feeling OK?

May I quote you?