Friday, October 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

School standards’ debut is rocky, and critics pounce

By
From page A1 | August 21, 2013 |

By Motoko Rich

The Common Core, a set of standards for kindergarten through high school that has been ardently supported by the Obama administration and many business leaders and state legislatures, is facing growing opposition from both the right and the left even before it has been properly introduced into classrooms.

Tea party conservatives, who reject the standards as an unwelcome edict from above, have called for them to be severely rolled back.

Indiana has already put the brakes on them. The Michigan House of Representatives is holding hearings on whether to suspend them. And citing the cost of new tests requiring more writing and a significant online component, Georgia and Oklahoma have withdrawn from a consortium developing exams based on the standards.

At the same time, a group of parents and teachers argue that the standards — and particularly the tests aligned with them — are simply too difficult.

Those concerns were underscored last week when New York state, an early adopter of the new standards, released results from reading and math exams showing that less than a third of students passed.

“I am worried that the Common Core is in jeopardy because of this,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “The shock value that has happened has been so traumatic in New York that you have a lot of people all throughout the state saying, ‘Why are you experimenting on my kids?’ ”

Supporters worry that opposition could start to snowball as states face new exams in 2014-15.

“The danger here is that you have two kinds of problems going on,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to close achievement gaps. “One is a tea party problem, which doesn’t have deep roots but does have lots of political muscle behind it, and then you’ve got a bit of antitest rebellion coming from the left. The question is what’s going to happen if they both get together. That’s the more terrifying prospect.”

The standards, which were written by a panel of experts convened by governors and state superintendents, focus on critical thinking and analysis rather than memorization and formulas.

The idea is to help ensure that students generally learn the same things in public schools across the country.

One goal is to reduce high remediation rates at colleges and universities and help students compete for jobs that demand higher levels of skills than in previous generations.

According to some estimates, about 40 percent of students entering college must take remedial courses before they can enroll in credit-bearing classes. Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, said the system spends about $70 million a year conducting catch-up courses for students.

The Obama administration promoted the Common Core by giving priority to states that adopted “college and career ready” standards when it awarded grants under its Race to the Top program. By last summer, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards.

But even many who support them are wary about how they have been adopted. David Cohen, a high school English teacher at Palo Alto High School in California who described the standards as “reasonable,” said that among colleagues, “the resistance and the anger and frustration are still coming largely, but not entirely, from the process.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has repeatedly emphasized that states, districts and teachers have broad flexibility to devise their own curriculums and lesson plans based on the standards.

Speaking about the Common Core to the American Society of News Editors in June, Duncan said: “The federal government didn’t write them, didn’t approve them, and doesn’t mandate them. And we never will. Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or willfully misleading.”

Last year Kentucky became the first state to give new math and reading tests based on the Common Core, and as in New York, the levels of students deemed proficient fell sharply compared with a year earlier.

Such results have spooked teachers watching from afar, particularly as an increasing number of states are moving to evaluate teachers in part on student test scores.

“Looking at the types of questions on these tests, I’m scared for my kids,” said Lisa Mims, a fifth-grade teacher at Pleasantville Elementary School in New Castle, Del. “It just seems to me that it’s what they’re asking us to do in such a little bit of time, and then saying we’re going to test this.”

In an interview, Duncan acknowledged that the transition would be difficult. “It’s easier to keep saying everything’s looking great,” he said. “Potemkin village, whitewash the walls. That’s the easy way to do it, but I’m not quite sure that changes kids’ lives or helps our country remain competitive economically.”

According to a report from the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, teachers in 30 states are already teaching some lessons based on the standards. But only 10 states reported that more than three-quarters of teachers had received any Common Core training in the most recent school year.

Supporters of the new standards say critics are too impatient.

“It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take a lot of work,” said David Driscoll, former commissioner of education in Massachusetts, where the state raised its own standards in the late 1990s and faced a falloff in state test scores before seeing them steadily climb. Today, Massachusetts leads the country in scores on exams administered by the federal Department of Education and ranks close to some countries frequently cited as world leaders in academic performance.

Several states have conducted teacher training as well as public outreach. In Tennessee, state education officials offered sessions to about 30,000 teachers this past summer, and in Delaware, Mark Murphy, the secretary of education, said that school districts would be hosting “back-to-school” nights where legislators can “take part in a Common Core lesson to see and experience the type of learning that the students will be getting.”

Some critics say the new standards are simply unrealistic. “We’re using a very inappropriate standard that’s way too high,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who served as an official in President George W. Bush’s Education Department but has since become an outspoken critic of many education initiatives. “I think there are a lot of kids who are being told that if they don’t go to college that it will ruin their life,” she said. “But maybe they don’t need to go to college.”

By contrast, Kristal Doolin, a middle school English teacher in Corbin, Ky., a rural area in the southeast corner of the state, said teachers should expect more of their students.

“I feel like if we lower our expectations, they will follow what we model,” said Doolin, who was selected Kentucky Teacher of the Year for 2013. “If you teach the way we’ve taught for years and years, basically we’re robbing our kids of the future.”

Comments

comments

New York Times News Service

.

News

 
A-Z: Downtown Davis is the place to celebrate

By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: C1

Courageous Thompson tapped for cycling shrine

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
UC researchers: How low-water can our landscapes go?

By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Downtown menu: coffee, boba tea, dessert

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: C3

Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Scientists work to save endangered desert mammal

By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Host families needed for students and teachers from Mexico

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Halloween Dance set Friday for teens

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Yoga and chanting workshop planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Day of the Dead folk art class set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Flea Market planned Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Red-hot tunes set at Blues Harvest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Enjoy A Taste of Capay at historic ranch

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Learn how to fill a cornucopia with flowers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

‘Homeopathy at Home’ program planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Video highlights Props. 1 and 2

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Meet Poppenga at dog park Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Celebrate origami at Davis library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Garden sale and open house features water-wise demos

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C4

 
Bay Bridge art project needs $4 million to keep shining

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Weir honored, a year early

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Americans, internationals make connections

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Explorit: Poison-proof your home with free lecture

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6

 
For a good cause

By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A6

School board hopefuls discuss homework policy

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Sutter auxiliary seeks volunteers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Project Linus seeks donations

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Forum

More theories on the abstention

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Rights beget responsibilities

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Water returns to its source

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
A solution to the drought

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Experience nature’s treasures

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Subs have other concerns

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

What’s next with Ebola?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
.

Sports

Bump, set, playoffs: Blue Devil girls clinch spot in postseason

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggies expect a bonny meeting in Sacramento

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

DHS footballers take on Pleasant Grove

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Bye No. 2 comes at perfect time for nicked up UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Shhh. Are Aggie women BWC’s best-kept secret?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
UCD roundup: Preseason awards roll in for Aggie hoopster Hawkins

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Sharks suffer from road woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Features

.

Arts

‘St. Vincent:’ Quite a character

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Rumpledethumps to play at Village Homes Performers’ Circle

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

DMTC plans ‘My Fair Lady’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to perform

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Calling all artists for upcoming show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Lewis Melvin Dudman

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Ann Foley Scheuring

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, October 24, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B3