It’s bad enough that the Texas Board of Education, through its new ‘standards’, will result in the mass mental disability of millions of American students. But the new federal standards could potential harm Massachusetts’ educational system–and if it’s working well (and it is)–then don’t fix it. With friends like Arne Duncan and the Obama Administration, who needs enemies (or Republicans)? Ze’ev Furman and Sandra Stotsky:
The Obama administration plans to make states adopt proposed national academic standards as a condition for receipt of federal education grants. The problem is what the administration has proposed is not near the quality of what the Commonwealth already has.
High academic standards are the foundation of Massachusetts’s landmark education reform success….
The latest draft of national English language arts and math standards looks very different. The prestigious National Math Advisory Panel identified algebra as the key to higher-level math study and recommended that more students should be ready to enroll in Algebra I by eighth grade. But it is unlikely that these standards could even support the teaching of such a course in ninth grade.
Rather than relying on English teachers to determine the relative complexity of the texts they would assign, the draft also recommends use of a formula that would be unusable by the average teacher. Indeed, the formula shows “The Grapes of Wrath” to be at a second- or third-grade level of complexity.
Not very standardey at all. But what’s really problematic is that, unlike the Massachusetts standards which actually define concrete goals that can guide teachers, the federal standards are rather nebulous (boldface mine):
While the Commonwealth’s standards steadily move to higher levels of academic content from K-12, the draft English language arts standards move along a yellow-brick road to an empty set of skill-based “college and career readiness” benchmarks. The content consists mostly of non-binding lists and titles included in the appendices. In math, the standards end somewhere short of Algebra II.
Ripple effects of the common core standards would be felt throughout public education in Massachusetts. New standards require new assessments to test mastery of them, and that would spell the end of MCAS.
Because who needs math anyway? Worse, those proposing the new standards do not seem to have learned from previous failures (boldface mine):
Rather than focusing on academic achievement, Darling-Hammond has long touted using student portfolios and other forms of assessment like “those that have been used in leading-edge assessment systems . . . such as those in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, and Vermont.”
“Have been” are the key words here. Connecticut scrapped its former standards and assessments in favor of ones that look more like Massachusetts. Vermont and Kentucky also gave up on student portfolio assessments because they proved unwieldy, unreliable, and too expensive.
It takes time to develop and implement quality standards. The common core standards would be implemented just a year after the process was initiated. Only three weeks will be allowed for public feedback before the standards are finalized.
It’s easy to understand much of the support for national standards, dubbed “no vendor left behind.” The standards development committee includes an inordinate number of folks from major testing companies. But state policy makers should think long and hard before scrapping the nation’s best standards in favor of an untested substitute.
I understand the desire to have national standards: Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, have crappy educational systems. But federalization should raise the bar to the system that is among the best in the world, not lower it. I’m also leery of using failed standards simply because a politically-connected education professor has influence: U.S. education is littered with failed educational reforms–reforms which have been disproportionately inflicted on those who can least afford them, the poor.
The Massachusetts congressional delegation better get its shit together on this. And, Governor Patrick, aren’t you and Obama supposed to be buddies, or something?