Tuesday, December 31, 2013

THIS IS THE COMMON CORE YOU SUPPORT? - or What Must Be Done in the Next Two Years …from two years ago!

by Paul Thomas, @The Chalk Face Blog | http://bit.ly/18VXzGe

December 23, 2013 by  ::  You have plenty of Urban Legend and baseless conspiracy theories swirling around the Common Core, and none of that really serves anyone well.

But you also have evidence (and from what I can tell, that doesn’t carry much weight).

So for all those who support the Common Core, and tend to ignore the evidence-based arguments against CC, I really want you to respond to this from David Coleman 2 Years Ago: We Were a Collection of Unqualified People (from Truth in American Education):


Let me help you since the video is long.

Introduction of David Coleman, architect of CC (see full transcript):

And he was invited to a sort of staff meeting where we were beginning in the Institute to think about what our stance was gonna be on the fact that new standards were maybe going to come our way. It was before the Common Core State Standards effort announced, and another person we were working with, whom I won‟t name tonight, asked if maybe at our next meeting he could bring David Coleman with him. And I said, “Who’s David Coleman?” and he gave me something like what I have in my hand. Those characteristics didn‟t seem particularly relevant to what we were gonna do, you know, like being a Rhodes Scholar and having both Cambridge and Oxford degrees – all that kind of stuff. That’s nice, but it’s really not so relevant. …

Okay, so this is the kind of person we are gonna be privileged to here tonight. He has been involved in virtually every step of setting the national standards, and he doesn’t have a single credential for it. He‟s never taught in an elementary school – I think. You know, I actually don‟t know. He’s never edited a scholarly journal, but I think he has written scholarly papers. And a variety of other things that have – you know, everybody here has done some of, he hasn’t done. [Laughter] You told me you didn‟t want to do a standard – [Laughter] so he hasn’t done the standard things, and now he‟s gonna tell you what he has done, or what he probably will say he has not done others have done, but which he has helped others to want to do and to ______ do. And we’re all gonna be living with the fruits of that, for the next five years, so listen carefully.

I never knew no experience and no expertise was so funny!

And now, some remarks from David Coleman:

You know, you’d think someone with Lauren’s experience would understand you never tell the truth when you’re introducing someone. It’s kind of like a eulogy in reverse. I think the clear lesson from tonight is don’t ask Lauren to speak at your funeral. [Laughter] She clearly doesn’t understand what eulogy stands for….

One of them is the kind of humility she talked about, about qualifications. I actually think it’s really  important to try to base what I’m about to say to you on evidence I share with you rather than on the sands of my qualifications. So if I ask you or talk to you about doing something it should be evident that it makes sense to you to do, ’cause I have no other authority….

One of them is that these standards are worthy of nothing if the assessments built on them are not worthy of teaching to, period. This is quite a demanding charge, I might add to you, because it has within it the kind of statement – you know, “Oh, the standards were just fine, but the real work begins now in defining the assessment,” which if you were involved in the standards is a slightly exhausting statement to make.

But let’s be rather clear: we’re at the start of something here, and its promise – our top priorities in our organization, and I’ll tell you a little bit more about our organization, is to do our darnedest to ensure that the assessment is worthy of your time, is worthy of imitation. It was Lauren who propounded the great rule that I think is a statement of reality, though not a pretty one, which is teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there’s no amount of saying, “They teach to the standards, not the test; we don’t do that here.” Whatever. The truth is – and if I misrepresent you, you are welcome to take the mic back. But the truth is teachers do. Tests exert an enormous effect on instructional practice, direct and indirect, and it‟s hence our obligation to make tests that are worthy of that kind of attention. It is in my judgment the single most important work we have to do over the next two years to ensure that that is so, period. So when you ask me, “What do we have to do over the next years?” we gotta do that. If we do anything else over the next two years and don’t do that, we are stupid and shall be betrayed again by shallow tests that demean the quality of classroom practice, period….

Student Achievement Partners, all you need to know about us are a couple things. One is we’re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards….

This is a long talk, and it is always dangerous to offer excerpts of anyone’s speech. I do urge that you read or listen to this completely, but I want to stress that two key points are repeated in this from Coleman himself: the foundational architects of CC admit to no experience or expertise (causing me to wonder why I should consider any of this) and testing is central from the beginning (thus, claims that CC can be separated from the high-stakes tests is, again, without credibility; testing is part of the CC plan).

Coleman tends to run with common sense claims about education, such as faulty international comparisons, and appears to offer no acknowledgement of issues related to poverty and inequity. As a 31-year educator specializing in literacy and writing, I notice that his claims and supposed evidence-base are wildly off. Just as one example, his sweeping generalizations about what students write are powerfully refuted by the most recent analysis of student writing by Applebee and Langer, who clearly show with data that students write very little in middle and high schools primarily because of the negative influence of standards and testing (raising the question: How are new standards and testing going to alleviate that when the designers of those standards and tests themselves forefront the unavoidable influence of testing?).

Finally, all the laughter is important I think. Yes, CC is one big joke—but it has been pulled on politicians, the public, teachers, and students. And I find that not funny at all. And despite Coleman’s principles that appear to suggest CC isn’t intended to line anyone’s pockets, to use his own paradigm, we have abundant evidence that Coleman*, Pearson, test designers, and the like are themselves laughing all the way to the bank.

* Turn CC notoriety into position with College Board where you redesign and grow College Board built on the rise in importance of CC:

In 2007, David left McGraw-Hill and cofounded Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit that assembles educators and researchers to design actions based on evidence to improve student outcomes. Student Achievement Partners played a leading role in developing the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy. David left Student Achievement Partners in the fall of 2012 to become president of the College Board.


  • P. L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Education (Furman University, Greenville SC), taught high school English before moving to teacher education.

No comments: