#Stopcommoncore and me

I am having some cognitive dissonance when I watch Glen Beck

If you don’t want to watch it all Glen Beck has three problems with the Common Core

  1. Poor curriculum
  2. Loss of states’ rights
  3. Data mining

By the way the video is full of misrepresentations and I am not going to try and point them all out. I think he definitely misrepresents the curriculum of the CC and how it is “forced on homeschoolers.” I also have no problem with the alternate math methods he shows. But while I disagree with many of his points and feel that he is not pointing an accurate picture of the CC, I find myself equally against the CC but for these three reasons.

  1. Narrow curriculum
  2. Loss of district/school/community/students’ rights
  3. Conflict of interests of the powers behind it.

What I don’t like about any national curriculum is that it takes away the choice from teachers and students to study what they choose to study. I find it to be too sterile and prescriptive for what individual students need in their lives. I believe it is arrogant for anyone to determine here is what “every student needs to learn to be successful.” So really my first two items are the same complaint that education should be negotiated locally between the community and schools including room for individual student passions.

Strange Bedfellows http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/beyond-brics/files/2012/06/bedfellows.jpg

Strange Bedfellows http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/beyond-brics/files/2012/06/bedfellows.jpg

I know that the CC is not the same as standardized testing, but since the testing will be driven by the CC and all school funding based off from agreeing to this I believe that it is impossible to separate the two. Funding is the real power that the federal government is using to manipulate states into agreeing to CC and the testing that goes with it. The fact that there are testing companies all mixed up in this is a major problem for me. I actually agree with Glenn Beck about the involvement of the Gates Foundation and the danger of data mining.

So while I don’t agree with the rhetoric of the #stopcommoncore movement on how terrible the CC curriculum is (I don’t think it is perfect either), I do find myself agreeing with them that I think CC is a continued part of the federal government standardizing schools and hindering passionate, personalized learning. So does that make us allies?

PS: For more detailed deconstruction of problems of the CC check out Paul Bogush’s blog.

14 thoughts on “#Stopcommoncore and me

  1. Russ Goerend

    I’m curious why you’re referring to the CCSS as a “curriculum.” It’s a set of standards that can be taught or learned using any curriculum.

    Grant Wigging wrote about that here (http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/the-standards-and-creativity-compatible/).

    I wrote about how we used the CCSS here (http://thoughts.russgoerend.com/post/48083268138/i-do-and-i-dont-on-common-core-and-posted-learning).

    My complaint about the CCSS has always been — and still is — that there are **too many standards.** There’s a bunch of redundancy within the 6th grade Reading and Writing standards, for example, and much to much minutiae.

    We “solved” that issue by taking the CCSS and molding them into what are useful “Progress Report Statements” for us and our kids. I wrote more about how we’ve done that in my post I linked above.

    1. admin

      Well the social studies ones are not out yet, but I am skeptical about them. I will be surprised if they are not heavy into content. The ELA ones are skills based and are fairly flexible, but the math ones are not. I would argue that the math CC is a curriculum and it has so many standards as to be very restrictive.

      I also don’t like Grant Wiggins architect analogy. Building code is restrictive. There are lots of things that can not be built in the US because they don’t meet code. I am designing an addition right now and am having some issues with that. Also the most creative, out of the box thinking is restricted by building codes. A good example of this is the Garbage Warrior (http://www.garbagewarrior.com/) who lost his license for building sustainable houses that didn’t meet code.

      I also think in the comments are a key point. It is not just about the standards themselves but how they are implemented due to the fear districts have of losing federal funding by not “meeting” them in the standardized testing that goes with. At least half of my argument is against the testing that is married to the standards.

      1. Russ Goerend

        Curriculum is what is taught and the materials used to teach it. Our Math teachers have been using CCSS for two years and it hasn’t been a curriculum for them. They’ve used many of the same curricular materials they’ve used in the past and added new stuff they’ve come up with — none of which is “CCSS marketed” materials.

        I’m with you on too many standards being restrictive, as I said. The issue, though, is that — it seems like — some districts are adopting the CCSS as-is. I don’t know if we’re “doing it wrong” by “fixing” them. The analogy of architectural code only goes so far, as all analogies do. If the *core* were more of what it purports to be, the **foundational** set of knowledge and skills students at each should have, I’d be ok with it. Because if it were actually that foundation, it would be a small, “core” of knowledge and skills. As it stands, the CCSS go way overboard, which is what I said I don’t like about them.

        Standards only become curriculum if they’re allowed to be, though. That’s a fault of the user, not the standards.

        1. admin

          Russ, we definitely agree that they go way overboard. I think one of my key points is that the “user” whose “fault” it is in my opinion is not individual teachers, but districts who are using testing and CC to implement required standardization across their district to make sure every kid is learning the same thing, at the same time.

          In many places curriculum is becoming scripted (in my opinion because of CC and testing) and stale and teachers who resist are “punished.”

          1. Russ Goerend

            I guess I just don’t see that as a problem *created* by CCSS. People have been complaining of scripted lessons and standardization since before I was a teacher. Districts making those decisions are nothing new, and they’re not looking for ways to use the CCSS to liven up their curriculum.

            What I’m saying is that while the CCSS may highlight those kinds of districts, the CCSS didn’t create them and those districts will still think that way long after the CCSS are gone or thoughtfully implemented.

            I was ornery when we first were told we needed to “pilot using the CCSS.” Our team started using them before they were rolled out in our district because we wanted to make the most of it and get the CCSS implemented into our students’ lives in the best way. After getting over myself we dug in so we were the ones using the CCSS, instead of the other way around.

        2. paul bogush

          The ccss are copyrighted Russ…Your school, state, or Federal gov’t does not own them or have license to change them…so you must implement as is, although you can add 15% to them. You may not subtract even one standard or you are not doing ccss and in violation of some yet to be determined rule.

          1. Russ Goerend

            We still teach every standard in the CCSS, but we don’t report every standard on our “report card” (Progress Report Statement) and we don’t use the exact CCSS language in our Progress Report Statements.

            Here’s what Iowa’s Director of Education tweeted about how we’ve implemented the CCSS:

            Good thinking from IA teacher/leader on customizing #ccss while holding hi expectations: http://t.co/sf19D6DBB8 HT @russgoerend #IowaCore


  2. paul bogush

    Just like buying a great unit on teaching tolerance from the Klu Klux Klan…doesn’t matter what the product is. matter who makes it, why it was made, and what it’s purpose is. ccss is nothing but blood diamonds.

    Did I mention I was invited to be on the Beck ccss show? Declined…being from CT it would not have been a good career move.

    Also, as an ex-homeschooling family…yes, they are being forced upon the homeschooling families. The data mining machine wants to include them and so many states are pressuring legislators to force them to become numbers in the system. The data mining is the least talked about aspect of what comes with common core. Someone needs to keep pointing out that these are businesses that sponsored, created, are implementing, and collecting the data. Please! Does anyone think they have the kid’s best interests at heart? By law they have to be most concerned with making a profit for their shareholders, that is who they owe their allegiance to.

    What I do worry about is that every anti-ccss post I read (besides yours) just totally ignores the real problems with ccss, and everyone that does (except yours) comes from a very conservative author who polarizes the issue between progressives and liberals. Although…what are you doing watching Beck?? 🙂

  3. paul bogush

    Mike saw your tweet about siding with #stopcommoncore and looking ignorant. Hope you don’t mind me being frank, but it makes me want to scream.

    Around here (most of US?), nobody wants to be the smart kid in class. Being smart, and thinking about things, get you the big ol’ nerd label. The culture is one that kids will simply go with the flow and fit in instead of questioning something. You know how it is as a teacher when you get that one kid who actually thinks about things and questions things and might even tell you how wrong you are at times? Know how proud of that kid you are because s/he is not just following the flock and buckling under peer pressure?

    Is our teacher corp full of sheep? So much so that when a teacher questions why the flock is walking into the wolf’s den that teacher is viewed as ignorant? A conspiracist?

    You are far from ignorant…and besides, if I agreed with you, my thoughts on ccss would get me pronounced brain dead.

    1. admin

      My comment referred to siding with Glenn Beck and friends. I find his style obnoxious and his substance full of half truths. That is what I mean by ignorant. Some of the critiques by #stopcommoncore are just silly or flat out inaccurate.

      I am not embarrassed or afraid to be against CCSS, but I don’t want to defend that particular movement’s reasoning. That is where I feel uncomfortable agreeing with them because our reasoning is not always the same.

  4. Matt Townsley

    I saw this conversation through Twitter, so thought I’d join in. Note: my thoughts come from an Iowa district curriculum director perspective.

    Prior to 2007, the state of Iowa did not have state standards. Each local school district was tasked with creating its own standards and benchmarks. (Source: http://educateiowa.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2486%3Aiowa-core-background&catid=1131%3Aiowa-core&Itemid=4602) In 2010, Iowa’s math and language arts standards were essentially overwritten when our state adopted the common core (Source: http://educateiowa.gov/index.php?option=com_content&id=2025:state-board-of-education-adopts-common-core-state-standards)

    In the years leading up to 2007, local school districts would often consult national standards (i.e. NCTE, NCTM) or neighboring districts when authoring their standards. It was nice in theory having local control, but reality eventually set in. When students transferred in from another district, it may have been a crapshoot figuring out what they’d learned in English 9. Furthermore, with NCLB, the state standardized assessments had to be based on some sort of grade level standards, therefore aligning with the tests seemed to make sense. By the time Iowa became the last state in the union to adopt standards, common core was right around the corner. Our state-authored math and literacy standards were short lived. Our state tests needed to be re-worked as well. A task force was created this year to see how well our re-written and re-normed tests from 2011-12 align with our current set of standards.

    I share this brief bit of history in Iowa to suggest that before and after state standards, testing was/is present and did/does influence local school districts. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest this type of influence is new with the common core (math and literacy).

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that no entity I’m aware of in the federal government is requiring states to adopt the Common Core (math & literacy) or Next Generation Science Standards. Texas and several other states have still yet to adopt the common core standards! (Source: http://www.corestandards.org/in-the-states).

    “The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards”


    “Each state independently made the decision to adopt the Common Core State Standards, beginning in 2010. The federal government was NOT involved in the development of the standards.”

    Michael, you said, “I know that the CC is not the same as standardized testing, but since the testing will be driven by the CC and all school funding based off from agreeing to this I believe that it is impossible to separate the two. Funding is the real power that the federal government is using to manipulate states into agreeing to CC and the testing that goes with it.” Could you elaborate more on what you mean when referencing the federal government’s funding power in the context of CCSS?

    1. admin


      I should not say that CCSS “create” the problems of testing obsession in schools. What I should say is that they “continue” the problem that started quite a while back but accelerated with NCLB and now RTTT. The Federal government has not ‘required” states to adopt the CCSS but used a carrot and stick approach with their money to get states to agree to CCSS.

      The federal funding is tied to schools reaching AYP under NCLB and reaching AYP now shifts to the testing that will soon be based off from CCSS. So if states don’t teach CCSS and do well on the national testing, that I believe will be the net step in this progression, than they won’t reach AYP and will be in danger of massive firings of principals and teachers.

      Race to the Top, in my opinion, was a blatant bribe attempt to get states to adopt certain criteria that were anti-teacher, anti-union, and anti-learning for students for the chance to get huge federal “grant money”. I see all of these things as federal government overreaching to break teacher unions and bring in things like TFA and KIPP. I also think there is a strong business lobby that stands to make a ton of money selling test prep and testing software to schools that has a strong voice in DC. There are many powerful people making these decisions. Almost none of them are educators.

      The whole process is dirty to me. I would much rather have local control of curriculum negotiated between the community and schools and between students and teachers will lots of wiggle room for student choice and passions.

  5. Matt Townsley

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for your response. I’m not up to speed on Race to the Top, but from what you’re saying it makes more sense to me.

    I’m still not sure I fully understand your perspective related to CCSS connections with NCLB. You make a solid point that CCSS continues an issue that started with NCLB in that newer standards create newer tests which in turn continue the accountability through standardized testing paradigm. My understanding is that state tests will be based on CCSS only if the state had adopted these standards as their own. For example, Texas has not currently adopted CCSS, therefore their state tests presumably have not changed. One question that still arises in my mind — aside from a common set of standards with other states, what incentives does adopting CCSS have to a given state? In other words, why doesn’t a state like Texas jump on board the CCSS bandwagon? Until they do, CCSS has little or no impact on the students within that state, from my perspective.

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