Sunday, April 10, 2016

Common Core, R. I. P.

Beware of billionaires who think they know what is best for you. Be especially wary of billionaires who think that they should be dictating public policy to the rest of the country.

It’s all for a good cause, you will think. Who knows more about education than Bill Gates? After all, he dropped out of Harvard. And, if he doesn’t know something he can certainly hire the best minds, the smartest consultants to teach him. 

Apparently, Bill Gates has nothing better to do with his time than to reform the educational system. He has so much money that he can assemble an army of “experts” who will tell us all how we should be educating children. And he has enough influence to induce the federal government to force and to nudge the states into adopting what is called Common Core educational reforms.

One notes that a Bill Gates believes in top-down dictatorship, but not the free market. After all,  he did not become hyperrich by competing in the marketplace. He did it by establishing a quasi-monopoly over operating software.

Now, Joy Pullmann writes that it’s time to stick a fork into Common Core. It’s done! It has failed. She offers in evidence a recent study by the Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington. Obviously, the source of the study is important. When you have lost the liberals on education, it’s time to pack up and go home.

Pullmann writes:

Last week the Brookings Institution issued the preliminary autopsy in its annual major report on education. It finds that American children are receiving objectively worse academic instruction because of Common Core, in two major respects: In the increase in nonfiction their teachers are assigning, and in a nationwide decline in students taking algebra in eighth grade.

American children are receiving objectively worse academic instruction because of Common Core.

This should not be news. It has been widely reported in numerous media outlets for years now.

Apparently, Common Core has accelerated the dumbing down of America. And, once children miss out on learning math the right way in elementary school, the chances of their catching up diminish. Now a new movement is afoot to exempt students from algebra—it’s just too hard for them.

And, do not ask how our algebraless children are going to compete in the marketplace against their peers from Singapore who are learning calculus in the first grade.

Pullmann continues:

Further, it finds that Common Core has done nothing to help children learn more overall, which was one of its supporters’ major claims: “there also is no evidence that CCSS has made much of a difference during a six-year period of stagnant NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores.” NAEP is the nation’s highest-quality set of large-scale tests, used widely by researchers as benchmarks for American kids’ abilities over time. While younger students have made some small gains on NAEP since it began in 1992, high-school graduates since then have not improved one whit.

Five years after the Obama administration started forcing Common Core on the states, Brookings concludes:

The 2015 NAEP scores were a political disaster for Common Core. Eighth grade math scores, for example, fell for the first time in NAEP’S 25 year history (down three points). Some observers were quick to point a finger at CCSS. That’s probably unfair. The analysis above indicates that, yes, nonadopters performed better than CCSS states, but only by declining less, not through improved performance. None of the states are setting the world on fire (emphasis added).

Obviously, good bureaucrats, supported by great consultants and a multi-billionaire looked at the results and blamed the tests. Since children were doing worse at the tests, Gates recommended that the tests be skewed toward what children were learning:

Remember, Bill Gates, Common Core’s major funder, said in a speech to state lawmakers: “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well.” Initially, 46 states signed up for these tests, which were supposed to create a network of national tests that would end “apples to oranges” comparisons of student achievement across state lines (that entire line of argument was a crock anyway, because NAEP has allowed an apples-to-apples comparison for now 24 years).

As I said, Bill Gates is such an authority on education that he was lecturing state legislators. Again, Common Core enhanced the role of bureaucrats at the expense of the good judgment of the teachers themselves. It was an anti-free market ploy:

Another major reform intrinsic to the Gates-Obama Common Core package was attaching students’ test results to their teachers to help accomplish these pie in the sky dreams of having closed-door committees of testing technocrats determine what every teacher should be teaching, how, and when. That, too, is dissolving into a big pile of wasted time and money.

Obama’s dictatorial flourishes of the pen have forced tens of thousands of people to spend hundreds of millions in tax dollars and millions of man-hours essentially shuffling paperwork.

Remember: the Obama administration spent $360 million of taxpayers’ money on these tests, and states have spent tens of millions more. Redoing state tests and teacher evaluation systems because of the Obama administration’s penchant for petty dictatorship—these came from no law Congress passed, but emanated from Obama’s “pen and phone,” which Congress refused to perform its constitutional duty of restraining—have been the foci of every single state education agency for at least the past seven years.

The great part was that, as test scores declined, teacher ratings did not. It was a neat trick, one that requires higher math:

Proponents of tying teacher ratings to student test scores pointed to data showing that 99 percent of teachers are rated “effective” even though only something like one-third of American students is achieving at grade-level. As states started linking test results to teachers, news reports kept showing the “surprising” results that nearly every teacher was still rated “effective.” Rick Hess of AEI highlights new research on 19 states showing that, between 2009 when the rules began and 2015, the effective teachers percentage went from 99 to 97. In other words, this major part of the Common Core package has been much ado about nothing. Shocker.

This is not a frivolous exercise. This is a class of supposedly superior people who think that they know best. But, they are messing with the minds of children. Common Core has prevented children from learning.

Pullmann issues her verdict:

Common Core has worked irreparable damage on millions of American children, and consequently our economy and culture. Millions of children will never learn math as well as they would have with better instruction, or begun to love reading with better literature selections (among myriad other negative effects). But the pain is pushing people to seek relief. Rather than sitting and bemoaning this genuine and huge problem, they’re doing something about it. While some seek relief in cynical, bottomless anger at “the establishment,” other people are seeking more constructive outlets for their frustrations. You can, too.


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Unknown said...

Common Core looks like a desperate Hail Mary Pass by race deniers to finally close that "gap" between minority children and White students. Amazing how when minorities get much lower scores in other countries its just not important but here in America its an Emergency! This equality thing has become a big money business with every expert in every field with magical solutions to finally achieve perfect parity. Now Bill Gates, the dirtiest guy in software, has decided to finally get into the market with incomprehensible curriculums to bring White scores down to get that magical equality that Trillions have been wasted trying to achieve. I suppose it never occurred to these experts that in order to get there and have all the schools and scores to match they would have to get the failing grades that cause educators to receive notices that their careers are in jeopardy for failing their students? I wonder if these people are willing to lose their jobs in order to get that magic perfect parity between the races by failing all their students?

Dennis said...

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs et al were not the creative people. They provided something most creative people lack, business acumen and direction. Business acumen does not always lead to common sense in other areas of expertise.
Sadly, it has been demonstrated a number of times that charter schools, religious schools, home schools, vouchers, et al do a far better job of educating students of any background. If it is not the student that is the problem then it has to be the quality or lack thereof of public education that needs to be addressed. Schools have long since given up on education as a goal. At present there is little reason for those who run these institutions to improve them. Unless we are ready to get rid of the unions and create competition in education for funds then we are only whining. Something we have become quite good at doing. Little time is spent solving problems when talking it to death is so much fun.