Jane Robbins, author of “Uncommonly Bad” (Academic Questions, Spring 2013), reveals that one of the stated goals of the federally funded consortia creating Common Core-aligned tests and of the National Governors Association–which owns the standards– is for colleges and universities to accept a core-based test as sufficient for college entrance, no remediation required.
Robbins suggests that both the standards and requirements for college entrance would result in “a homogenized education system that smooths out the disparities in achievement by placing more emphasis on ‘critical thinking skills’ than on objective evaluation of knowledge.”
We are almost there.
David Coleman, president of the College Board, recently announced that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has been revised to align to Common Core. Before he became president of the College Board in 2012, Coleman founded Student Achievement Partners, which played a leading role in writing the Common Core standards and was funded by $6.5 million from Bill Gates.
Since Coleman is an enthusiastic proponent of the standards he shaped, it is relevant to take another look at Common Core before examining the SAT revision.
Reprising Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
The standards do not lack for critics.
Mathematics professor R. James Milgram, the only math content expert on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards, refused to approve Common Core math standards. He told the Texas State Legislature that Common Core math: “in large measure is a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results.”
The Common Core high school math curriculum is seriously truncated. It ends at algebra 2 with a few lessons in trigonometry. College freshmen will be unprepared to enroll in courses requiring pre-calculus.
As we know from Jason Zimba, one of the three drafters of the math standards, Common Core is designed to prepare students to enter community colleges and non-selective schools. He admitted that the math standards aren’t designed to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies, but also that they’re not designed to get a student into any selective college, even in a non-STEM discipline.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Language Arts Validation Committee, refused to approve the standards. Among other objections, she found that they lack rigor, are NOT internationally bench-marked, and that NO research supports the stress on informational reading instead of literary study in English classes.
An article titled “An Example of Data-less Decision Making,” in the Winter 2011 Journal of Scholarship and Practice, supports professor Milgram and Dr. Stotsky’s objections – and then some.
According to Journal editor Christopher H. Tienken:1
Over 170 organizations, education-related and corporations alike, have pledged their support to the initiative. Yet, the evidence presented by its developers, the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), seems lacking compared to the independent reviews and the available research on the topic that suggest CCSS and those who support it are misguided.
The standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis 2010) Yet most of the nations governors, state education leaders and many education organizations remain committed to the initiative.
Tienken evaluates the arguments made by proponents of Common Core and the data they claim support CCSS. He finds both lack credibility. A few excerpts from the extensively referenced 15-page article indicate the tenor of the rest. It can and should be accessed on the Internet and read in its entirety by anyone concerned about their children’s and America’s future.
The vendors of the CCSS have a problem: They have no data that demonstrates the validity of the standards as a vehicle to build 21st century skills nor as a means to achieve the things the business leaders say will be needed to operate in a diverse global environment. The CCSS are stuck in a time warp. A curricular time machine, if you will, set in 1858…
Upon examination, the claim that CCSS address critical 21century skills is ludicrous.
We only need to look at the mid 1800s and the Lancasterian Method used in London and in some of America’s cities and the Quincy Massachusetts schools to see how the idea of standardization will play out. It did not work then and it will not work now.
The language arts and mathematics curriculum sequences embedded in the standards are nothing more than rehashed versions of the recommendations from the Committee of Ten in 1893 and the Committee of 15 in 1895; hardly 21 Century innovations….
As to the validity of Centralized Planning, the author notes that we are a nation of over 300 million ethnically, religiously and racially diverse people and concludes…
It is terribly naïve to think that all children should be made to master the same set of academic skills and knowledge and that it would actually benefit them or a country to do so.
It is an Orwellian policy position that lacks a basic understanding of diversity and developmental psychology. It is a position that eschews science and at its core, believes it is appropriate to force children to fit the system instead of the system adjusting to the needs of the child.
Tienken has detected the underlying authoritarianism of Common Core. College Board president David Coleman’s remarks at the 2013 Strategic Data Project Conference validate that finding.
College Board President David Coleman
Coleman’s self-congratulatory statement about his role in promulgating the standards should put to rest the fiction that the standards were “state led.”
When I was involved in convincing governors around this country to adopt these standards,” Coleman said, “it was not Obama likes them – do you think that would have gone well with the Republican crowd?”
He went on to praise the collection of student data connected to Common Core. He said he was eager to extend that collection by hiring members of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign who, Coleman said, “would be reaching out, as they did for the campaign, to the ’low hanging fruit,’” which he defined as low-income and Latino students. He also told the audience that other members of the re-election team would be joining the data collection initiative. Their task is to develop their “economic justice project, the Access to Rigor Campaign” aimed at profiling that low-hanging fruit.
The May 15, 2013 Ed Tech Times explained the purpose of the economic justice project:
The campaign will mobilize students to take and succeed in those AP courses for which they have potential; attend colleges where they are equipped to succeed without remediation: and explore the full range of college options available to them in order to ensure that they go to a college that is the best fit for their individual needs and academic qualifications.
Other Obama campaign veterans selected to work on common core data collection include Dan Wagner who, according to Coleman “led the Obama campaign’s use of data to galvanize a generation of low-income people to vote like they never have before;” Jeremy Bird, who will join the Access to Rigor campaign and head “field mobilization.” Bird served as ”National Deputy Director of Organizing for America and lead the Turning Texas Blue campaign which is working to organize the Latina population in that state for Democrats.
Ann Kane at American Thinker observed: “Coleman made it abundantly clear he will concentrate on data mining our school children’s proclivities.” She asks: “How does this intrusion into children’s privacy through more accumulation of data support Coleman’s stated goal of making students career and college ready?”
The ideological commitment of Obama campaigners leaves little doubt that fulfilling that goal is subsidiary to their primary task. Under the beneficent claim of helping low-income and minority students, they will use common core data in the same way the Obama campaign used data to persuade “low-income people to vote like they never voted before.” Obama campaigners will do what authoritarians have always done – mold education to “transform” a nation.
To align with the standards, the vocabulary portion of the test has been narrowed. The development of a broad vocabulary developed through wide spectrum reading – integral to reading comprehension – is short-circuited by Common Core’s emphasis on informational texts. The old verbal portion of the SAT is now replaced by “evidence –based reading and writing” to assess “relevant words in context.”
Eliminating most of the vocabulary section and making the essay optional also makes the test easier. The point scale has been reduced to 1,600 (it was 2,400 with an average score of about 1520). That alone says a great deal about the “rigor” of the standards.
Peter Wood2 (National Association of Scholars) wrote that the SAT revision should be seen first and foremost as a “rescue mission” for Common Core. Parental pressure is causing several states to reconsider the decision to participate. In addition to controversy over the quality of the standards and the leftward tilt of some Common Core aligned materials, parents have privacy concerns about the State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) connected to Common Core. The more parents learn about Common Core, the more likely they are to enroll their children in charter schools, in private schools if they can afford them, or to home school. But if college entrance tests are geared to the perspectives of Common Core, being bright and well read, and taught a non- politicized curriculum may not be adequate preparation for the revised SAT. That concern will pressure private and charter schools as well as home educators to conform to Common Core.
The SAT alignment also serves two other purposes: It conceals the deficiencies of Common Core – eliminating the embarrassment of a scores comparison showing that common core students do less well than pre-Common Core students; secondly, the new SAT accomplishes the leveling (economic justice) purpose of Common Core.
Wood reminds that the purpose of the SAT and the American College Test (ACT) was to predict whether students would do well in college. That is no longer their function. The 1970 and 1980s imperatives of racial preferences and diversity trumped scores and high school grades. So in the 1990s SAT “recentered” the scoring system, blowing air into mediocre scores and blurring differences between top scorers. The CCSS-aligned SAT is a social engineering tool: A mediocre education and a simplified exam to send more students to college.
David Coleman’s remarks reveal that the SAT revision is much more than a rescue mission. It is a vital component of the plan laid out in A Crucible Moment. Inculcating students with regime-approved political attitudes is insufficient. Control of access to education, job training and careers assures continued compliance. A planned economy requires that critical jobs be filled with approved individuals. It is reasonable to think that the data collection that facilitates finding “low hanging fruit” for special treatment can also be accessed to identify and sideline dissidents by foreclosing their education and training opportunities. Similarly, despite the drive for equality, gifted students can be identified and, assuming their dossiers show them to be politically reliable, they can be chosen for a fast track and an elite university. See the earlier WWTFT article, A Crucible Of Change to learn how it is all supposed to work.
Some defenders say that Common Core is only a baseline and that schools are free to exceed the standards. But, there are only so many hours in the school day and as they used to say on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, “you can bet your sweet bippy” that what will be tested is what will be taught.
3 According to a June 2010 ACT report, the test is already aligned to Common Core: “Given the central role ACT played in providing research and evidence to support the development of the Common Core State Standards, it should be no surprise that the overwhelming majority of the Standards can and will continue to be assessed by ACT’s College and Career Readiness System.”