Common Core Ally Breaks Ranks

Massachusetts, a critical ally of Common Core, has now joined the states that have rejected the federal math and English standards. The Massachusetts State Board of Education has voted to forego Common Core testing in favor of redesigning its own state exam, an influential move from a national education leader that may hasten the end of a national high-stakes testing era, while challenging education experts to come up with a better alternative.

It was Mitchell Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education in Massachusetts, who helped develop Common Core aligned tests. On his recommendation, the State Board of Education decided that Massachusetts would go it alone and abandon the multistate test in favor of one to be developed for just this state. The move will cost an extra year and unknown millions of dollars.

The backlash against Common Core has grown steadily since states first implemented the initiative. Public opposition, in addition to the formation of an unusual alliance between conservatives and unions, are all in a fight against a common enemy. Only 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, are currently scheduled to continue with PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests aligned with Common Core standards.

A universal national curriculum leaves too many students behind. The Collapse of Common Core is happening now and we can only hope that the federal government will let it fail and end all funding of federal education initiatives.

Online Community College Courses Show Paradoxical Results

Community colleges are attended by 45 percent of the nation’s undergraduates.  Currently the community college sector is under fire for low graduation rates. Only 25 to 30 percent of students who begin their studies at a community college complete their degrees or transfer to a four-year college. Enrollments are decreasing.

To cut costs while attempting to boost enrollment, community college leaders tout the flexibility of online courses.

Republican Free Enterprise Schizophrenia

In the last Texas legislative session, two school choice bills passed the Senate, but were not considered by the House Education Committee. House Speaker Joe Straus appointed House Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock and could have forced him to schedule hearings and votes on the Senate-passed school choice bills, but did not. Supposedly, H-E-B grocery-store billionaire Charles Butt was instrumental in the failure to have those bills considered. So much for school choice opponents’ repeated assertion that public schools should keep their public finance monopoly because schooling policymaking “must be democratic”. There was nothing “democratic” about the Texas House’s treatment of school choice proposals.

The Flourishing of Student Protests on College Campuses

College debates are miniatures of the social and cultural debates happening across the country. This fall, student protests at the University of Missouri caught national attention, forcing a discussion over racial concerns at higher education institutions.

Beginning in September with an event called “Racism is Here,” students at University of Missouri organized to protest issues of diversity and inclusion and the result, the resignation of two top administrators, was instructive for students all over the nation — students have the power to make things change.

An Education Freedom Index Calculator: An Important Measure of Central Control

This is a different online calculator than the School Choice Fiscal Notes Calculator I announced a few weeks ago. Both have been in the works for a long time.  This must be the year of the school system index in the Chinese calendar!? In the course of making announcements of my just-completed, online Education Freedom Index (EFI) Calculator, I discovered that an UN-affiliated NGO (OIDEL — International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education) is just about to release a Freedom of Education Index (FEI). Despite the very similar names, my EFI and OIDEL’s FEI measure very different things.

The New SAT — Bringing All of Education into Alignment

“I get asked a lot, ‘Did you hire David Coleman because he worked for Common Core?’ I’ll tell you, absolutely not.” — Douglas L. Christiansen, College Board chair

In October of 2012, College Board, the organization behind the SAT and the Advanced Placement (AP) tests, hired David Coleman as Chief Executive Officer.

Online Charter Schools Show Disappointing Results

The Center for Research on Educational Options (CREDO) at Stanford University recently published its findings for a study about the academic impact of online charter schools. Only full-time online charter students in seventeen states and Washington, D.C. were included.

The study sought to answer whether e-schools are a niche option that best fit a small group of students possessing a specific set of characteristics or whether they are a viable solution for educational challenges for today’s families.

The Unacknowledged Lesson from the Current Testing Controversies

President Obama wants less class time spent on testing, and some well-informed analysts are calling for an end to high-stakes testing; that testing should provide educators with data, but not directly trigger consequences. One of the two Robert Pondiscio articles that triggered this blog uses a great metaphor; “Holding a Wolf by the Ears.” You want to stop, but you can’t. Indeed, that you can’t end high-stakes testing is the nature of the beast! What beast you ask? The top-down-accountability beast. Because educators are directly accountable to elected officials, and only through them to parents and schoolchildren, there has to be an objective basis for that top-down-only accountability to officials. Pondiscio wants low- and no-stakes testing; testing only to generate information educators can use to see what works. But then what basis do we have to assess merit and provide, ultimately, for accountability? And what tangible pressure is there to optimally use test-generated information. In our current system, which facilitates little, if any, bottom-up educator accountability to parents and schoolchildren, we need high stakes testing, which is an unfortunate aspect of the current U.S. school system. I want a school system in which we don’t need high stakes testing. In such a system, parental choice from a dynamic, diverse menu of schooling options is the primary basis for educator accountability for effectiveness at what they do.

In such a system, what reliable tests can and do measure would be just one of the many pieces of information that would be the basis for bottom-up accountability. Because parents and their schoolchildren subjectively take account of everything that affects the value of schooling environments, to them, testing would not greatly narrow the curriculum to tested items or discourage attentiveness to important aspects of schooling environments not reflected in test scores. Then, the test results would just provide valuable information to parents and educators, alike.


The Collapse of Common Core

Originally published at InsideSources:

Common Core is the latest in a series of failed federal education reforms. The goal was for individual states to adopt these national academic standards and tests.

Common Core math and English standards were released in 2010 and implemented by many states in 2014. However, of the states that have adopted and implemented the standards, 14 are downgrading their participation or withdrawing from national tests designed around those standards. Texas, Alaska, Nebraska and Virginia outright rejected the standards from the beginning. Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana and Ohio have withdrawn. Since adopting the standards, Massachusetts has suspended implementation of the standards, and other states are also taking steps to withdraw.

Students Could be Taught to Analyze Primary Sources

In the past year there has been quite a bit of controversy, especially in Texas, regarding history curriculum. When the Texas Board of Education voted in November of 2014 on textbooks in Social Studies, History and Government the backlash over the historical interpretations of the books was overwhelming. The National Education Association, The Washington Post and the New York Times all criticized the way the textbooks dealt with various historical topics ranging from slavery to the Founding Fathers. Opposition continued into the new school year as NPR reported teachers’ concerns and parents reacted to the new curriculum.