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Education Standards And The Common Core

The Common Core — the tough, new, nationwide standards to get America’s students back in fighting trim — is here.  We’ll look at what it is and the debate it’s fired.

A sixth-grader at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, works on a new netbook in Austin, Texas. (Harry Cabluck/AP)

A sixth-grader at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, Texas. (Harry Cabluck/AP)

Have you heard of the Common Core?  In 45 of 50 states, it’s coming. A new — and, for many states, tougher — set of standards and tests for assessing how American students are doing, from kindergarten right on through.

The idea is to standardize and raise the level of American education, aim it to prep for college and career, to compete globally, to put everyone to the same test.

Fans say it’s long overdue. Critics say it’s  heavy-handed, it’s window dressing, it’s scary.

Up next On Point: We’re digging into the Common Core and what your kids are going to be expected to know.

– Tom Ashbrook


Catherine Gewertz, assistant editor and lead Common Core reporter for Education Week. (@cgewertz)

Andrew Hacker, political scientist and professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at Queens College in New York. He is the co-author of “Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money And Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About It” and “Two Nations: Black And White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal.”

Andrew Rotherham, co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a non-profit organization which works to improve education for low-income students and which has been researching the implementation of Common Core for the last three years. He authored the blog post “7 Common Core Challenges.” (@arotherham)

Show Highlights

Gewertz on why Common Core came about:

One of the reasons that the initiative got going was that states began to see that students varied quite a lot from district to district and state to state on what their standards were. In other words, states had created very different levels of expectations for their students and they had set very different cut scores, or passing scores, on their tests. So there were very, very different pass rates and success rates from state to state. And there was increasing awareness that on international tests, the U.S. was a fair to midland — not real great. And we weren’t looking real good.

Gewertz on the challenge of designing curricula:

Of course, between standards and tests lies curricula. And that’s where some of the heat is being generated here — of course, the tests are generating heat too. Many stripes of heat. But the curriculum that goes between the standards and tests — in other words, how do you turn standards into day-to-day instruction. That’s going to vary a lot. But one of the fears and one piece of the backlash is it will sort of create a lockstep kind of instruction. There are people who disagree with that criticism, but it is a fear out there.

Gewertz on testing and the challenge of enough time to teach the standards:

The common assessments, the tests, are due to make their debut in the spring of 2015. But for several years now, states and districts have been phasing the Common standards, writing curriculum for them, et cetera. [TOM ASHBROOK: Because you have to teach it before you can test on it.] One would hope. And that’s actually been one strain of criticism, that teachers and schools have not had enough time with these very complicated standards to really be expected to be evaluated, to have teachers evaluated on them, to have schools rated on them. So that’s one strain of the pushback here.

Rotherham on teachers and the need to support them in developing curricula:

There is a lot of concern on will we support teachers adequately to do this, and I thought Catherine [Gewertz] really put it well: You’ve got the standards, and they’ve been developed and people can look at them. The assessments are being developed. In between is the curriculum for teachers — lesson plans, things like that. And people are scrambling to develop good content.

Because I think most people would be surprised at the low quality of a lot of lesson plans, a lot of curricula that exists now. A lot of things that people are frustrated about, a lot of stuff that’s off the shelf from commercial vendors is very bland; it’s not really enriching, the kind of things we want kids to read. But there’s an effort to revamp that here.But how successful that effort will be — we ‘ve taken a look across the states at what’s going on. What you see, even in the leading states, is not yet up to the scale of the challenge. And collectively around the country, the efforts really pale against the challenge here.

And teachers will be, if they’re not supported in this, they will end up frustrated. The teachers unions, which currently support this would very likely turn into adversaries. And so there’s a big risk here that if we don’t really over the next couple of years make a quantum leap forward in how we support teachers in doing this work, that there will be a backlash.

Right now, because of all these different standards, teachers in different states can’t really talk about their work at a granular level together. There’s huge promise in this commonality that we’re going to be able to have better ways to support teachers, more innovation and so forth.

But, as I said, there’s tremendous risk. And the risk is that we will do what traditionally, frankly, we have done in education, which is sort of weak kinds of implementation without a lot of fidelity to the core ideas, no pun intended.

Hacker on “teaching to the test”:

We can talk about curriculum. We can talk about standards. But when you have this test looming every child, every teacher, every school, you’re going to teach to the test. And for all the talk about critical thinking or moral reasoning — there’s not going to be that. They’re going to teach test techniques — anticipating questions, how to get which of the five answers is the right one.

Hacker on why a national test would breed failure:

The real issue to me is not the standards, so-called, but the testing. A national test which every student from a shack in Alabama to the suburbs of Scarsdale is going to have to take. It’s going to be essentially a single test and guess what? There’s going to be a huge failure rate. It’s going to exacerbate the 22 percent dropout rate we have among high school students already. If you set this high seven-foot bar for the kid in the shack, and you keep setting  the bar, and you say “Come on. It’s rigorous. It’s higher. You got to meet it.” Is that kid going to get over it? But it’s not just one kid. We’re talking about not just the 22 percent dropout rate, but others who manage to stay in school and are still going to be deemed “non-proficient” again and again in this national test. They’re going to be like ex-convicts, walking around without a high school diploma.

Rotherham disputes Hacker and explains the different kinds of tests being developed:

These new assessments that are being developed — and it’s not a single national test. That’s inaccurate. There’s two state consortia that are developing tests right now. Different states are in these different consortia. Some are actually in both; they want to see what’s going to happen. And then there’s some states that are going their own way — Utah, Alabama have said they’re going to get tests from existing private sector vendors, and they’re going to go that way to get their new tests. There’s going to end up being a multitude of tests, at least three or four, possibly more, approaches as Catherine [Gewertz] said during the intro. This is still unfolding.

TOM ASHBROOK: This is something much closer to standardized than what we’ve had when it’s all over the place?

How standardized it’ll be remains to be seen. The hope is today’s assessments are not as bad as people make them out to be, but they’re certainly not nearly as good as our students and teachers deserve. And the hope is that this next generation of assessments, because of the research that’s being put into them, the development, some federal money, that that’s going to help develop a better set of assessments that are going to more accurately reflect what students know, be more useful for teachers. Again, that’s the hope. There are some big risks there as well.

Hacker on granting different types of high school diplomas:

First of all, Texas has three types of diplomas. It has the one diploma that can get you into Harvard or Yale, another diploma perhaps to San Marcos in Texas, and a third diploma where you could start at a community college, maybe doing air conditioning repair, but moving up to a four-year college later. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Rotherham on systematic discrimination that results from putting students on tracks:

The problem you see with these different routes — and the GED is a piece of this — is low-income kids and minority kids systematically get put into those routes. And so what you have to believe the professor’s [Hacker's] very deterministic position about this, you have to believe that poor kids and minority kids, systematically, they don’t want to go to elite schools. They don’t want these things. They want to go and they want to be air conditioning technicians — which is, by the way, a very respectable way and if you want job security these days, there’s nothing wrong with learning to work with your hands. It’s a very good path to it. But you have to believe that these populations are systematically making that choice.

Or you can believe, as the evidence shows, that they are systematically being put into lower tracks, they’re taking less rigorous curriculum. They’re then not prepared to do the things necessary to get into these elite schools. And then that’s why we a) see the really poor participation of low-income kids at elite schools, and b) why we see very much of the social mobility that we see. Because the data is very clear on this…the best thing you can do in this country if you want to improve social mobility is help low-income kids go to college.

Rotherham on high school preparing students to have many options in the future:

Some people do know what they want to do at a relatively young age. Many don’t. And you could think about many people whose own life experiences and trajectories, they went in different directions. Where I come down is you want high schools to essentially be trampolines to push kids to higher levels of learning and have lots of different choices in front of them. My concern is that kid who really thinks they want to do cars and they’re really good at that and that’s what they do through high school — and then a couple years later, they decide they don’t want to do that for the next 40 years after they’ve been out and doing it.

You want to have that kid set up — and this is not a hypothetical example, I know kids like this in rural communities. You want that kid to be set up to then go back to college, go back to community college to go on a different path. And if we just let kids specialize in high school and make them purely vocational, you’re essentially putting people on a pretty fixed path that it then becomes harder and harder to bounce back from. They decide they want to go to college, they’re way far back from even taking credit-bearing college courses, for example.

And you can blend these things — there’s absolutely nothing in the Common Core that’s incompatible with a terrific program in auto mechanics and shop. You can do these things; good schools do this now. And you get really good outcomes when you combine rigorous academics with vocational education, so it’s not a choice.

Rotherham on advantaged and disadvantaged students and leveling the playing field:

That child from Scarsdale does enjoy all sorts of advantages. And it is the job of the public schools to level the playing field as much as possible for that child from Alabama. And I’ll just put one statistic out there that I think illustrates this. Right now in this country, about 8 percent of low-income students can expect to get a BA by the time they’re 24 — 8 percent. So if anyone says we’re doing about as well as we can, we can’t expect more, we should put these kids into vocational education — you’re essentially saying that 8 percent is a realistic ceiling. I think that’s not true. I think there’s plenty of evidence from some communities that do better, schools — both public, private and public charter schools — that do better, that show we can actually have much higher expectations for students.

Gewertz on the challenge to implement Common Core:

There’s large swaths of the civil rights communities that have advocated historically for disadvantaged children in particular that feel this is a great thing — the argument being why should our kids be held to lower standards than kids in the high-flying suburbs? But these things are hard. I just spent six months hanging around in one classroom in one school in the District of Columbia, watching them trying to put this on the ground. And the gaps between what kids know and what they’re expected to know with these standards are big. And it’s a heavy lift. It’s going to be a heavy lift not just in disadvantaged zones but in the vast swaths of the country.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Who’s Minding The Schools? – “Whether the Common Core is called a curriculum or not, there’s little doubt that teachers will feel pressured to gear much of their instruction to this annual regimen. In the coming years, test results are likely to affect decisions about grade promotion for students, teachers’ job status and school viability.”

The Washington Post: GOP Fear Of Common Core Education Standards Unfounded – “The Common Core standards are actually an attempt by governors — including many conservative, Republican governors — to set some coherent standards on what children should know about math and English by various grade levels.”

The Wall Street Journal: Conservatives And The Common Core – “For most states—which have lacked demanding standards for years—the Common Core represents a remarkable advance in rigor and academic content. Since the standards call for a coherent, grade-by-grade curriculum, those states that have signed on to the Common Core are now having a serious discussion about the specific subject matter that must be taught in the classroom.”

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  • Yar

    There are no simple solutions but process matters.  The taxpayer must return to public education.  As Brown vs board of education clearly stated, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  Charter, religious, and private schools for the affluent creates separate and unequal educational facilities,  they undermine funding for public schools. Property tax as a primary source of revenue for education widen the gap between the wealthy communities and the poor.  People will never fully fund education of other peoples’ children. Money is one side of the issue, administration is other. Everyone in education from the janitor to the Commissioner of Education should spend at least ten percent of their work time doing classroom instruction.  

    The discussion over what is taught and how to teach it will solve itself once these issues are addressed.  If a person’s only job is to change curriculum, it will get changed every so often simply to justify the job of an administrator. The same is true with any other person in oversight of education, get everyone out of the office and into the classroom. Anyone who can’t hack it in in front of the class shouldn’t be telling teachers how to teach.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      “Anyone who can’t hack it in in front of the class shouldn’t be telling teachers how to teach.”

      And they certainly shouldn’t be making three to five times the amount of money that those who actually carry the load make.

  • Sam Ribnick

    I teach 9th grade science in a turnaround school in Boston, and I can say the common core (or Next Gen science standards) won’t help one bit.

    Please pose this question to your guests: MA, NY and other states with rigorous and high-quality state standards have great schools in the suburbs, but still have terrible failing schools in the inner city. States with poor or nonexistent standards have the same: good schools in affluent (often white) suburbs, terrible schools in the inner city. So why should we think that Common Core will change anything?

    As commenter Yar said, there are no simple solutions but process matters. Get a group of talented professionals to run a school and teach the classes and you’ll get success. Micromanagement from the top as a substitute for actual leadership and teaching ability will fail every time.

    • jefe68

      It wont, and you are correct. This is yet another attempt to correct a system that has become unmanageable and dare I say corrupted by the political agendas of both parties. 

      • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

        Corrupted by only one party, and several unions.

        • jefe68

          The misanthrope has spoken. 

          • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

            and I rebutted.

          • jefe68

            No it’s you I’m going on about and your flag waving ignorance and intolerance.

          • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

            You forgot the John Water reference.  (The more time I spend here the more I feel that some of the commenters are just a leftist “magic eight ball” computer program repeating the same ad hominem attacks over and over again.)  

            jefe68 why don’t you use an avatar?  

      • Don_B1

        The problem with the schools becomes a lot clearer when thought is given to the fact that the suburbs generally have good or usually great schools and it is the inner city, in its poorer neighborhoods  where schools do not “perform.”

        What is the difference? The inner-city children come to school with home problems that distract them from learning, which leads to disruption in schools and frustrated teachers. Many good teachers move to better schools, leaving teachers that are not as likely to get good results in inner schools, particularly when salaries are low, which they are.

        Both parties have failed to address the social problems of poor children, but the Republicans must take the chief responsibility for refusing to provide the resources for young inner-city youth to succeed.

        The schools, particularly inner-city, are asked to do so much more than just teach and are not provided adequate resources to accomplish the additional tasks.

        But these common standards may address one of the failings of the Leave No Child Behind (LNCB): the state reductions of standards and teaching to the test.

    • Jasoturner

      Micromanagement is always accompanied by a whiff of decay…

  • Wahoo_wa

    As a taxpayer who does not have children I want to be reassured that my money is being used well and effectively.  Common core curricula and standardized testing assure that there is a defined set of goals and that those goals are met.

    • Sam Ribnick

      I agree that the Common Core assures that there is a defined set of goals, but it will depend on the teachers and schools to assure that the goals are met. There are many states with recognized high-quality standards, but they still have plenty of trouble meeting them.

      You may have heard the phrase “You don’t grow a pig by weighing it.” Well, similarly, you don’t grow the pig by setting benchmarks or goals. 

      We can develop better standards, we can administer standardized tests ever more frequently, but quality leadership and teachers will always be the crucial piece of the puzzle.

      • Wahoo_wa

        I agree Sam.

        Most, if not all jobs have standards and goals.  If teachers or administrators can’t meet the goals or standards they should be replaced.

        • Sam Ribnick

          It’s a very fair point, and it gets right to the heart of the current ed reform debate. Before I started teaching, I pretty much agreed with what I think you’re saying now, which is also the philosophy behind a lot of the current ed reforms.

          Now, my opinion has shifted, and I hope you’ll find this to be a useful perspective.

          The key challenge is that, while teacher quality is the top school-based influence on student achievement, between 60-90% of student achievement is explained by out-of-school factors such as home environment, socioeconomic class, etc. (check out this reference as backup for the stats: http://bit.ly/11yUqD2)

          So, while I agree that teachers need to be held accountable, and I agree that bad teachers need to go, the problem (in my mind) is when we start making those decisions based on test scores and standards. I have taught and tutored students from affluent backgrounds, and I can say that teaching in an inner city Boston school was so completely different, it’s barely the same job. If we start replacing every teacher at a failing school simply because the job is so difficult, we will quickly run out of teachers (and this is exactly what is happening!).

          Cultivating a corps of talented, experienced teachers requires building an environment of trust, and when teachers are under threat of being fired, and forced to adapt to constantly changing top-down policies, it makes it hard to stay in the profession. I know many talented, dedicated teachers from my inner city school have chosen to leave to other careers or better schools (I chose to leave as well).

          • Wahoo_wa

            Sam I think you have very valid points and experience.  My aunt is a teacher and she tells a similar story.

            It does raise another topic.  What do we as a society expect our teachers to be?  I expect teachers to teach their area(s) of specialty effectively.  I don’t expect teachers to take the role of parent.  I suspect that this is a real underlying conundrum in public education. 

          • Sam Ribnick

            Seems like we’re converging on agreement here :)

            When our culture expects teachers to make all the difference in student achievement (when they only have influence over 10-40%), the result is that we both demoralize teachers, and we continue to ignore the out-of-school drivers of student achievement.

            More and more, I believe that what we call an education problem is actually a poverty problem…though I don’t have any great ideas how to fix it…

          • cindy

            Goals are important.  So if the goal is 10 widgets at the end of every month or you fail, how does this work?

            First widget maker sits at desk with all the components, ready to go.

            Second widget maker has to cut down the tree, make the paint, build the desk, assemble the chair, all before they can sit down to make the widgets.

            So is a standard goal fair in every situation?
            (seeing your next post, you’ll probably agree:)

          • Sam Ribnick

            That’s a great analogy, I’ll definitely use that in the future!

            In my view, not only is a standard goal less than fair, but it’s counterproductive (for the reasons stated above).

          • Don_B1

            @samribnick:disqus @disqus_d9RhJQEVBc:disqus 

            It is not so much the goal that is unfair; after all, every child needs to have an equal chance at a developing its capabilities to succeed in life, and that requires the opportunity to achieve those goals.What teachers in disadvantaged communities need is the extra resources that will give their students the ability to make use of the teachers’ presence and knowledge.

            That is a hugely difficult problem, from funding problems to parent’s ability to understand their child’s needs and help their performance.

          • Wahoo_wa

            I think we do need to find ways of removing social expectations that are not part of a teacher’s real set of responsibilities.  This aspect of education reform is something that I think needs to happen at a local level while overall performance expectations should be a national effort.

    • cindy

       As a taxpayer, you should be worried that local control is going to the government.  Ask your district.  How much do they spend to meet mandates? How much do they receive from the government?

      • Wahoo_wa

        I assume you are referring to the federal government?  I don’t think national standards in education are inherently a bad thing.  If a student lived in one state their entire life it would work but the nation is not that way.

        • Don_B1

          This is particularly true with the current level of mobility, where new students are arriving throughout the year and are at different steps in the curriculum because schools do not all teach the same things at the same time.

          This inserts a lot of material disruption in the course work.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I’m so ridiculously tired of hearing the plight of the poor American taxpayer.  We pay so little compared to other modern western nations.  We don’t pay for universal healthcare, we’re soon to cut back on old age insurance and medicare, we’re smashing unions and stealing benefits from teachers…

    What the hell do you want?  How low would your taxes have to be before you’d quit your whining?  What sort of dystopian, survival of the fittest nation do you want to live in?

    • Wahoo_wa

      “What the hell do you want?”
      Simple: accountability.

      • Shag_Wevera

        BTW, my post wasn’t a response to yours.  Just coincidence…

        • Wahoo_wa

          I understand but do you agree there needs to be some accountability and some way to measure success particularly when we see waste in government spending?  If schools are broken (and we hear that over and over again from many perspectives including teachers themselves) we need to fix them.

          You also mention unions.  Those same unions keep teachers employed even when they cannot perform their jobs effectively.  Why should we pay for failure?  The taxpayer, through their representatives, should be able to get rid of ineffective teachers based on measurable proficiency.  

          There are also professions that have higher education requirements than teachers and stricter licensure requirements yet have fewer benefits and equal or lower pay.  These professionals are not unionized but instead form professional organizations that advocate for the profession.

          • madnomad554

             You ask, “why she we pay for failure”? This country does this everyday of the week. Just take a look at professional sports. How many teams sit in last place year after year, but the players still make their millions? Isn’t Chicago’s school system in a failing mode, but they keep those loveable last place Cub’s around and continue to pay them millions.

          • Wahoo_wa

            I am not a sports guy but there is a HUGE difference here.  Teachers are on the public dime.  Professional athletes are not.  One could argue that public money is often used to build stadiums, etc. but that money is refunded to the coffer by tax revenue and economic development.

            A failing teacher is a failing teacher.

          • madnomad554

             Wasn’t comparing the two. Merely pointing out that this society is apparently OK with paying someone to finish last.

            I chose to mention Chicago, because in the past 12 months they have had a teachers strike and have closed 50 schools. Supposedly both happened for the better, only time will tell.

            I too am not a sports fan, as I don’t have a TV. The core of my original comment points towards priorities. While the schools close and the teachers strike, those last place athletes still make their millions and the minds of the children continue to suffer.

          • Don_B1

            There are a lot of studies that show the taxpayers never get back the money spent to build the stadiums, etc.

            Take the Dallas area where a new baseball stadium was built with a sales tax increase and then the stadium turned over to the owners, including G.W. Bush, and will probably be replaced long before payback is achieved as the previous one was. That goes for the Cowboys stadium also, and everywhere else that I know of except the stadium for the Patriots (football in MA) where the MA House Speaker insisted it be privately funded.

          • madnomad554

            And apparently they can’t build one of those multi-million dollar stadiums to last for more than 20 years, before they implode the thing and build another one right across the street.

          • cindy

            Maybe our Federal government has broken the schools with all their “fixes?”  Kids learn along a continuum depending on where they are when they arrive; Standardized testing holds everyone to be at the same place at the same time.  What is measurable?  If my child doesn’t get this year’s stupid essay question on the standardized test, we can infer a lot of things from that.  The best measurement of a teacher’s ability is walk-through observations and principals with backbones.  I agree – unions have protected teachers that are bad for too long. Take that power away from them in the contract negotiations!  Stop reforming the entire country to fix the failing schools, which by the way are failing due to home life/poverty; those countries that are surpassing us? Yeah, they don’t include those student in the rankings!

          • Don_B1

            One of the reasons for union protection of teachers is the favoritism that principals, school boards can exert.

            There are undoubtedly exceptions, but teachers’ unions have largely modified their previous stranglehold over teacher dismissal, agreeing to a series of steps from identifying teachers with poor performance to providing extra training and assistance, and if no improvement then dismissal.

            One measure of using test results that, while definitely not perfect, has been used in some places. This approach takes a “value-added” measure, where the students’ knowledge is measured at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year. Thus a teacher is not held responsible for what the child did not know at the beginning of the year but the improvement the child has made during the year.

            I have not read much about it lately, so maybe it was found more deficient than thought, or there was no incentive to correct for deficiencies, or some other problem, I do not know.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      “What sort of dystopian, survival of the fittest nation do you want to live in?”

      Take a look out the window, we’re almost there.

    • Bruno_Andersen

      Agreed…BUT we pay more per pupil than many of the nations that are out-teaching and out-learning us.

      Myth #14 is that our pathetic education system is the result of underfunding.

  • William

    Just another multi-billion dollar “fix” to the education system that will be replaced in a few years with another multi-billion dollar “fix” for the education system. 

  • Steve_the_Repoman

    How do we define “public” life?

    A voluntary association of like-minded individuals, a body politic, the self interest of flawed individuals with the whole somehow becoming greater than the sum of its parts….?

    Does anyone else see an erosion of the “common” good in both private sector economic thinking and governmental institutions?

    If public institutions are necessary for long term societal survival
     - the rule of law that allows the citizenry to have faith
       to invest in the future-
    how much of the society must believe in the dream? 

    Factional interests seem to have infected all sides of discourse with little thought given to who is our neighbor.

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      The left’s practice of total politics has done a tremendous amount of damage.  

      • Don_B1

        The “Right’s” (mis?)use of President Reagan’s statement that “government is the problem” [not the solution -- to any problem] has been more to blame than the left’s attempts to help individuals solve their problems.

        Certainly there are individuals calling for government solutions to problems that are unlikely to ever be implemented. But they certainly are used as “poster boys” for demagoguing all government projects as the “Right” tries to ensure the government is shrunk to a level where equal opportunity for all becomes nothing more than a slogan with no chance for those not starting rich to get any opportunity to make a success of their lives.

        Without government enforcing a level playing field, where the poor and middle income people have as much opportunity to enrich their lives as the wealthy, the whole society, rich to poor, will be diminished. This is what Joseph Stiglitz has been showing in his research over the last decade and more.

        • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

          Excellent. This is the exact argument that best demonstrates the differences between our views. I agree with President Reagan’s statement and quote it frequently. It is your view that the government is a separate party working as an umpire calling strikes and balls fairly. My view is that the government is brutal force in application and biased in favor of itself. Government will hold people down or raise them up only if it by doing so serves the government. That is why strong boundaries must be placed on governments. Governments turn to dictatorships in the same way that parasites kill the body they inhabit if allowed free reign. Detroit’s looting of the Art museum is an example of this.

          • Don_B1

            It is NOT my view that government is a separate party working as an umpire calling balls and strikes fairly.

            It is, as Lincoln said, an institution “… of, by, and for the people …” which by agreement does attempt to call balls and strikes fairly, as the majority has determined. Such an institution is necessary for the majority of the population to agree to submit their differences to that umpire rather than settling them in private, as is too often the case in Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries and probably other countries too. [Think of honor killings, etc.]

            What other body would you have perform that function? I don’t think you have thought through the consequences of some being allowed all the “spoils of privilege” when others are denied them for lack of opportunity.

            No human institution is perfect but making it more just and open for all is better than allowing more and more distortions of the intentions of the founders.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1150881256 Nicole Smith

    I’m a teaching student studying to be a high school math teacher and I
    will complete my student teaching requirement this fall in North
    Carolina. It seems the Common Core is a step in the right direction, with input from the right people.
    However, when I attempted to make sense of the Common Core standards and how I might go about designing my lessons in light of the Common Core, I’ve been thoroughly confused with the very broad and unclear descriptions of the standards. I know that breadth can be a great thing in that it gives teachers some autonomy, but I’m still not sure what a high school algebra student should know by the end of Algebra I–not by looking at the Common Core standards as described on http://www.corestandards.org, anyway.

  • John Cedar

    The best way to improve education would to be to turn it over to the states and eliminate the federal government from the equation.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Get ready for Texas-style science studies to be worth a bucket of warm spit, then.

      Cos we can’t have a real conversation about education without the words “creationism”, “anti-science”, and whatever the next false flag name for creation is.

      • Wahoo_wa

        OMG I agree with you (falls out of chair)  LOL

    • DrewInGeorgia

      And I’m sure that would improve the even more critical problem of access to education by minorities and the impoverished. Basic Human Rights decided state by state.
      Yeah, that sounds great. What the hell do we need a Bill of Rights for? Let’s let the states decide!

  • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

    The Gates Foundation “has determined what it thinks education policy should be” and funded efforts to put that policy into effect, Robbins said.“It’s the way [Gates is] doing it that we think is curious,” said Scott Thomas, dean of Claremont Graduate University’s education school, according to Heartland. “It’s an intrusion into the public sphere more directly that has not been seen before. They’re jumping into the policy process itself. That’s an interesting position, for a nonprofit to be involved in things that look a lot like lobbying.”The problem with this expensive marketing campaign is that the policies Gates helped fund were created “under the radar,” without input from stakeholders or legislators, said Robbins. Now the curriculum is taught to students across the country.http://washingtonexaminer.com/watchdogs-private-funding-influenced-public-education-policy/article/2521340

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      Question to think about while listening:

      How much money has The Gates Foundation paid to NPR?

    • Don_B1

      Sounds to me just like what conservative-led corporations and billionaires are doing through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) every day, “under the radar” and with tax deductibility to boot.

      What Gates is advocating may not be the best plan, and some aspects almost certainly are, but I doubt it is as much “under the radar” as the Washington Examiner is claiming.

  • Bluejay2fly

    Our economy has thousands of talented, brilliant people but they are choosing to work where the money is; in banking, finance, the legal profession, and the defense industry. Most of these gifted and privileged use their top notch education to amass personal wealth at the expense of our nation. The only thing that is stabilizing our society is the fact that the vast majority of the people who suffer under this exploitative system do not have the attention span great enough to figure anything out. The majority are completely satisfied engaging in conspicuous consumption and are apathetic to the grim reality of contemporary society. My best friends father would say to his son “Shawn, your going to dig ditches for ten cents an hour and go home and drink your five cent beer”. A modern update to this would be “Caleb, your going to work at Starbuck’s for minimum wage and come back to our basement and get wasted while playing video games.”

    • Shag_Wevera

      So sad, so true.

  • Jasoturner

    Teaching is clearly not a science, since if it were, it would evolve and improve over time and would be well documented.  Rather, we apply new “theories” of teaching from time to time to try and educate our students more effectively.

    I think standards are a great idea in principle, but there is that little issue of intent.  Do we want to teach our students to be good future employees?  To be free thinkers like the founders?  To learn how to learn?  To be creative?  To be maximally “productive”?

    It strike me that as a nation, we seem to be considering ourselves more as employees of the United States than as citizens of the United States.  That shift in outlook could have a profound effect on what “standards” are embraced in teaching our young people.

    Lastly (sorry for droning on) it may be worth considering abandoning the current pedagogical approach altogether and experimenting with alternates.  For instance, I think many science courses would be easier if you first showed kids how to use equations to get answers, and only after they have a feel for what the equations do would you teach the underlying theory.  I always thought thermodynamics would be infinitely easier to teach if it was done this way.

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      It seems to me that everything you suggest can only be achieved by a voucher system.  

      • Jasoturner

        Really?  Why so?

        • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

          Public schools are failing because they must be all thing to all people.  If they were broken up and allowed to specialize in the ways you suggest, and many more, parents and students could be better served.  

          • Jasoturner

            Charter schools could handle this too.  The public school system is not hopelessly broken.  Yet.

          • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

            Bureaucratic inertia is the real problem.  I believe that we must make large changes to break up that log jam.  But I can be persuaded to your point of view.  But as a parent I caution you to remember that my son will only be ten once.  He can repeat a grade or go to summer school but there are trade offs.  And what cost is the missed opportunity?  

        • Don_B1

          I think this is a day where RWB just feels the need to throw out snark.

          But seriously, teaching has evolved, in fits and starts, from rote learning to more learning through play, which makes it easier to retain, like all the other fun things in life.

          Clearly the best teachers have always used mixtures of all these approaches, but learning how and when to apply each one is the art that differentiates good teaching from less good teaching.

          As to pedagogy, the first thing students need to see is the questions and why they are important; then present the ways to approach the problem of getting an answer.

          While there is always a tendency to just remember the formula, oftentimes the circumstances where it is applicable get lost, leading to a different form of garbage in garbage out, where the input data are put in the coffe grinder rather than the spectrometer and the results give a wrong answer. [Maybe you can give me better examples of "data processing"?]

          There is no better example of applying the wrong thought process than the current economic depression, where many do not know to, or are ideologically driven to ignore, the fact that the Great Recession was balance sheet driven, not Federal Reserve high discount rate driven, so that the desired recovery from the Lesser Depression will require fiscal stimulus, not austerity, where the Reagan Recession [1982-83] was caused by the Federal Reserve raising the discount rate to wring inflationary expectations out of everyone’s mind, and could be “cured” by lowering the discount rate as soon as it appeared the expectations were erased. Currently, the discount rate is near zero, at what is called the Zero Lower Bound, and cannot be set lower than zero in nominal terms, and only by letting inflation rise can it be effectively negative.

          [Now that is, for many people, probably, really "droning on." To get a better exposition, read the PDF linked here:

          http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/japan-1998/ ]

          But when I was learning thermodynamics or any of the other branches of physics, what I wanted to learn was how to derive the equations, or rather, how to think about the question I was trying to get an answer to, so I derived/used the appropriate equations to get what I hoped was the answer [and thankfully because of that approach I usually could do that].

          I can remember sitting down and using difference equation methods to derive in five or so minutes the mortgage equation of principal, interest and monthly payment terms when I was buying my first house (I did not have my reference handbook and there was no Internet back then).

          • Jasoturner

            I know what you’re saying, and I agree that understanding the application and derivation (or better yet, doing it yourself) is kind of the goal.  But think about how they teach something like specific heat.  It is usually very abstract.  But if kids do a few straight forward HVAC calculations first, they’ll have a firm handle on how specific heat simply links heat flow to temperature change, and how different materials have different specific heats, & etc.  Learn that first, and the deeper stuff comes much more easily, or so I think.  Plus now you grok why you’re learning it.

      • creaker

         Vouchers are a great way to subsidize the better off to getting great schools while giving the poor a ticket that won’t even the cost of a education.

        • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

          Socialist claptrap.  A voucher system could and should be able to correct income inequities and democratize education.       

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Yet basically ever voucher and charter system hasn’t done anything better except put money in the hands of “reformers”.

          • Don_B1

            Just consider the impending fall from grace of Michelle Rhee:


            This article is more about ways of learning that are difficult to quantify.

            Follow the link in that article to the article in The New Republic where more specifics on Rhee’s failures are provided.

          • Don_B1

            The amount of money attached to the voucher is never enough to compensate for the cost of the school and transportation for those poor children from the inner city against which the voucher system was conceived.

            So as the cost of vouchers is extracted from the funds of the public schools, it only diminishes the education provided by those public schools and makes it easier for the charters to outperform them.

  • donniethebrasco

    More worksheets for kids.

    Teachers can just hand out the worksheets and show the answer key when the kids have a question.

    Why do teachers need an education?  I don’t know.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

       Sorry but quality teachers are worth their weight in gold and are grossly underpaid.

      The system is upside down.

      • 1Brett1

        Well said!

  • creaker

    Listened to an article about what kids are reading now vs. a 100 years ago and how it’s dropped several grade levels. Hunger Games, popular with teens was sited as an example – 5th grade reading level.

    Education is not just about testing and assessing – it’s about teaching and learning. If we successfully produce 5th grade level high school graduates, we’ve failed.

  • donniethebrasco

    Inner city parents want charter schools, but the teacher’s union is doing everything in their power to kill charter schools.

    21 year olds are going to Algebra classes to get free lunch and free breakfast.

    Inner city schools have become high cost cafeterias.

    Charter schools are the only way to remove the damage of the “Great Society.”

    • Shag_Wevera

      If a bowl of cheerios and a carton of milk gets someone to algebra class, I’m all for it.

    • nlpnt

      Charter schools don’t fix the problem; for-profit companies are allowed to run charter schools and to run many multiple schools, so the root problem you’re complaining about (unresponsiveness and lack of accountability due to size and institutional power) remains intact. 
      Better to return all schools to district control and break the big-city districts into multiple small ones whose school boards are made up of unpaid volunteers and make for lousy political sinecures. That’s the suburbs’ “secret sauce” and it should work in the cities too.

    • Don_B1

      Inner-city parents (at least most of them) want good teachers that have the time to help their child when there is a problem or an issue the child is having difficulty with.

      And being that teacher is what all good teachers want, those not burned out by not having sufficient resources to deal with children that bring problems from home that interfere with paying attention, etc.

      Your attitude is part of the problem, or a reason slowing the resolution of the problem.

      Charter Schools are both better and worse than average regular public schools, with a bias toward being worse. They are irrelevant to solving the real problem of the schools, but they let you say, “done that, now move on.”

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Still focusing on teaching them what to think as opposed to teaching them how to think. As Jasoturner says in his comment, I’m afraid that we’re far more concerned with churning out good little citizens and obedient workers than we are with producing forward thinking individuals. I don’t know what the solution is but I’m fairly certain it will not be found in refined testing procedures.

    • Wahoo_wa

      I fear the “how to think” relies on individual talent and intelligence.  The “what to think” gives everyone an equal set of knowledge points from which to build a life and career.  I also question when teaching the “how to think” is most useful.  Personally I think the “how to think” is more meaningfully taught at an upper college and graduate level.  

      • DrewInGeorgia

        ‘What to think’ is great if the information is accurate and unbiased, it frequently is not. I only learned the skinny so to speak after graduating. You’re right about higher education but the focus should be introduced at all educational levels. Not everyone can afford Higher education.

  • creaker

    The biggest problem is most parents take no ownership in their children’s education. Parents can teach, get their kids to read, expose them to endless learning opportunities. But most would rather just whine about how the schools aren’t doing their job, when the parents really aren’t doing theirs.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Parents don’t have time to get involved in their children’s education, they are far too busy proselytizing at the alter of Capitalism. Go ahead, call me a blaspheming commie, heathen, socialist. A problem is never addressed by ignoring it. Americans have come to respect primarily one thing and it’s not an educated populace. It’s a Dollar.
      The saddest thing is that we think we respect that dollar when at the core we merely covet it.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        That’s true for some.

        And for other parents and families, there’s a group just trying to make one paycheck out of X number of part time jobs, which doesn’t result in having a lot of time left over.

        I say that having grown up long enough ago to know it’s different now. The moms of my peer group (and it was basically moms then, the dads were at work) pretty much had the time to be in the PTA in our suburb.

        • creaker

          People that don’t have the time to raise their own kids probably should not have any.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            “Raising their own kids” and “spending X hours a month at PTA meetings and off-hours meetings with the B of E” are different things.

          • creaker

            I wasn’t suggesting working the system (and good luck with that, your kids will have likely aged out of the system before you could change anything), I was suggesting working with your kids. And if you don’t have the time to be with and work with your kids, yes, you really should not have them.

      • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

        No, dear friend, you are not evil just wrong.  Some parent suck, they don’t care about their kids.  They are not part of this discussion.  Most parents love their children more than their own lives.  They struggle to provide for their children.  But they most deal with the ever increasing demands of an out of control government.  A government that serves itself and not the citizens that pay the bills.  A government that has believes that what isn’t forbidden shall be mandatory.  DrewInGeorgia if it was just dollars that would be bad enough, but it is so much worse.  

        • Don_B1

          What most parents must deal with in their daily lives is the ever increasing demands of their workplace, where overtime must be taken or they might be laid off, or a second job must be searched for and accepted since they aren’t getting raises at their main job.

          These are the sources of daily stress that prevent parents from providing the support their children need; that and various inadequacies from their childhood, etc., that cause them to not understand what they need to do.

      • madnomad554

        I’m with you on this. I see other comments below are swearing up and down they don’t have time. Let me find them some time.

        According to the Nielson ratings, adults in this country consume an average of 28 hours of TV per week. Research also indicates that those same adults will check their cell phones an average of 29 times while watching one hour of TV. Children are watching about 35 of TV hours per week.  There is an average of 125 TV channels per household today. Why? Because the content is consumed. Adults are also consuming 13 hours per week of internet use and that does not include email or work related use.

        I’m sure many will still swear they don’t have the time.

        • Don_B1

          I have not seen the data, if any, on the number of channels actually watched out of the 125 “available,” but I doubt it is much over 10.

          Additionally, for lower income families, there is seldom cable or Internet service, so the broadcast channels, usually less than 10 in any area, are what is available.

          While the number of hours watched may be true, there are a lot of homes where the TV is “on” but no one is in the room watching it. I have read recently of efforts to quantify this, with (Nielsen?) meters measuring the presence of someone watching the TV.

          • madnomad554

             Some 58% of homes receive 100+ channels; 26% receive 60-99 channels; on
            average, television households in the US receive 17 broadcast TV
            stations, Nielsen said.


            Whether it’s 1 or 1000 channels, the data is there. Americans, adults and children are watching copious amounts of TV. My original comment point is that millions of parents just can’t use the, “I don’t have time excuse”, when it comes to getting involved with their children’s education.

            I can reflect back on my childhood home in rural Tenn. There’s poor, then there’s dirt poor…single wide trailer poor to be exact. Neither parent graduated high school, but somehow I graduated on time and was a self employed home owner by age 20. I guess a person can have and get what they need if they try hard enough.

            It just seems like a lot of excuse making these days in this country, even excuse making parents…sad and embarrassing to say the least.

    • Bruno_Andersen

      How much time did parents really spend on their kids’ educations in the 1940s and 1950s or whenever it was we had a golden age of American education?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

    It feels like we need less standardization and one-size-fits-all approaches to education, and more listening on the part of educators and personalization to a student’s aptitudes and interests. I personally like the Sudbury Valley School model.

  • Shag_Wevera

    After scrolling through the comment sections of both today’s topics, I’d once again like to suggest a constitutional convention with the intent of dividing the United States into several smaller nations.

    Two new nations would lend itself to an us vs them issue.  I’m thinking more like four.  West Coast, East coast, great lakes, and the great central south theocracy.  Hawaii could have native rule, which seems to be a growing wish there.

    It is obviously pie in the sky, but my suggestion is nonetheless a serious one.  Perhaps this country is too unwieldy to effectively function.  I know I no longer care to try to find common ground with some of the more conservative voices I regularly hear.

    Give it half a thought!

    • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

      Did you attend the Constitutional Convention at Havard last year?

  • donniethebrasco

    Special ed is killing schools.

    • 1Brett1

      Well, apparently, it didn’t do much for you.

  • J__o__h__n

    A reporter for Education Week says “incentivizing.”  Fire her!

    • WorriedfortheCountry

       I told you that I like that word.

      • J__o__h__n

        You’re fired too! 

  • J__o__h__n

    Carve out the south and we’ll be fine. 

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Don’t bet on it.

    • Wahoo_wa

      Some of the nation’s top colleges and universities are in the south.

      • J__o__h__n

        The problem is their senators and representatives are holding having a negative impact on the country not the quality of their colleges and universities. 

  • Julie Gorlewski

    The Common Core is designed to create a profitable, streamlined set of curriculum materials and assessments.  Moreover, it is a National Curriculum, for certain.  Finally, check out the letter from EXXON here http://atthechalkface.com/2013/06/11/exxonmobil-sends-mafia-style-letter-to-pa/

    • Don_B1

      The goal of providing a standard base of knowledge and work skills for all children seems quite reasonable.

      But developing the creative workforce that will be needed in the future will also need skills to evaluate the information, both true and false, that is permeating the public discourse today.

      At least some of that will come from understanding why that standard base is the standard base and the ways new potential additions need to be “wrung out” before being accepted.

      It would be interesting to see what contributions ExxonMobil has made to the development of the pedagogical methods being developed to achieve this, beyond agreeing on a set body of knowledge.

  • creaker

    One thing that seems so different now than when I was going to school is back then it was understood that some kids would excel – and some kids would not. And the rest would fall somewhere in the middle.

    The current assumptions that one can provide a good education in such a way that you can “push” a standard set of knowledge into every kid’s head if it is only done correctly seems a set formula for failure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

    Ah, yes, the Straw Man approach to advocacy: characterize all of your opponents as nuts (“mind control!”) based on a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of the opposition. I imagine there are a lot of non-nut, non-conservative voices in favor of local control over education, and of personalization over standardization.

  • lguisbond

    A big problem is the way one-size-fits-all standardized testing drives instruction in our classrooms, regardless of the intentions or quality of the standards themselves. To read more about the tests being developed to measure the Common Core standards, see a fact sheet from FairTest (the National Center for Fair & Open Testing), here:


    Lisa Guisbond

  • Coastghost

    Any fresh foreign language requirements or components in the CC curriculum? Continued adherence to the idiocy of postponing foreign language instruction until the secondary grades are reached, or “discovery” of the centuries-old understanding that language acquisition is much easier and longer lasting when instruction is offered in primary grades?

    • J__o__h__n

      The world speaks English.  The value of foreign language instruction is questionable. 

      • Coastghost

        –which satisfactorily explains why the BBC maintains a foreign language service.

        • J__o__h__n

          The BBC needs to go back to requiring RP for news presenters. 

      • Bruno_Andersen

        Tell that to the 37 million people in the US who live in Spanish-first households in the US…

  • Arthur

    Is the common core more like Finland’s or S.Korea’s education system?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=512663140 Anya Rose

    I recently finished my student-teaching at a public school in Somerville, MA. While less experienced, student-teachers can often bring new eyes to the system.  I think that there are some merits to standardized testing, but what I see is teachers being treated in ways that we would never treat our students. Teachers are stressed and they are afraid that they will fail. When we see our students worried, we help them. I would ask that teachers be treated the same way: If we fall, help us. Treat us lovingly. Don’t reprimand us or take away our jobs and our school’s funding. That kind of treatment doesn’t work in the classroom and it doesn’t work in life.

    • sarcnelson

      I’ve been a high school teacher for six years, and remember my student-teacher days very clearly.  Of course teachers are stressed about performance on the assessment – that’s what happens when people are assessed, whether it’s in education (as teacher or student), health care, the business world, etc.  It’s a fact of life and no excuse to not assess someone.  Teachers (and students) who fail to show that they can achieve some type of academic goal should be supported and helped at first, but if they do not improve then they should be reprimanded, their jobs should be taken away. I cannot tell you how many good teachers are no longer teachers because they are new to the field and not protected by seniority, while many senior teachers remain even though they are not able to teach as well as newer teachers. This is the real world – people are assessed.  What we need to do is find a quality assessment for students, and then start talking about how it plays a factor in teacher evaluation.  Common Core seems a step in the right direction, especially compared to the standards and assessments that we’ve used in California for years now.

      • Don_B1

        Your last two sentences need more emphasis!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Couldn’t we get Michelle Rhee on the show to tell us how she’d fix everything?

  • adks12020

    Standardized tests don’t work; they don’t make people smarter. I don’t understand the obsession with these tests.

    • Yar

      Because there is big money in tests!  It is like insurance, sell it once and collect a commission each year.  Beware of the military industrial and educational testing complex.

  • AaronNM

    While I do think there is value to national standards, it seems as if we’re starting at the wrong end. We should be lengthening school days, offering more study sessions, encouraging targeted learning, and expanding non-standards based education like art, music, drama, and athletics. The direction we’re taking is a recipe for failure because it turns schools into short-term memory factories rather than catalytic centers of learning, creativity, community, and responsibility.

  • creaker

    Anyone know how this will affect homeschoolers?

  • J__o__h__n

    What is the value of a diploma if a minimum proficiency is not achieved? 

  • Scott B

    The problem the few states (Texas especially), the far right, and people like Perry and Beck, have with Common Core is that they won’t be able to have their own version of history anymore.  No more making slavery the ‘Triangle Trade”, or pushing creationism or “intelligent design”.  New organizations have run stories on how kids taught these alternative histories and “science”, find themselves woefully behind in college.

  • monicaroland

    I just retired after 21 years teaching “lower” readers in a public middle school in Lockport, NY, near Buffalo.  The big problem is that many of these students CANNOT pass these tests.  These are kids of average intelligence, but who are not destined for a four-year college.  They are greatly discouraged by a curriculum that is much too difficult for them.  It is immoral to force all kids into one curriculum!  We need a system that poses high standards for all children, but with different levels or tiers.  I will say this to my dying day.  My poor students despised and loathed these tests, which did them no good at all.  These are kids who went on excel at career/vocational tech classes — IF they made it that far.  Many others simply dropped out of school.  More career/technical education, please!  The future of our country depends on it.

    (By the way, speaking of immorality, NY state also forced disabled children to take these tests.  Many of them can barely write a sentence, yet they are forced to sit through 2 hours of testing.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.)

    • William

      When you were teaching poor readers what did you think was the reason(s) they could not read at a required level?

      • monicaroland

        William, excellent question, and I thank you for asking.  There are so many reasons.  Family situations rank No. 1.  Many came from homes where reading was not a valued virtue.  Other homes were completely dysfunctional.  These kids come to school without the usual reading readiness skills.  Another major reason is innate skill.  Every human being is equal in value, but unequal in talent.  (I always excelled at reading/writing, but had little talent for higher math, for example.)  These students certainly can learn to read at higher levels, but not at the level evaluated in abhorrent tests.  A third reason is personal interest — many just are not infatuated by school.  

        I believe all children can achieve at higher levels, but there should be different levels, or standards, for different populations.  These levels should not be mandated, but rather chosen by students and their families.  

        There’s so much more to say — I am glad I became a teacher after 20 years as a journalist.  I learned how hard teachers work, how their efforts are belittled, and how non-educators are deciding on “standards” without any knowledge of how the human mind works.

        • Don_B1

          I agree on the innate reason, but I disagree that children from dysfunctional homes should be exempted from being provided the opportunity to learn; but they definitely do need whatever extra help is necessary.

          Just as schools provide extra help for some with physical disabilities, there is no reason that children with home problems should not get help. They just don’t seem to have parents that make the demands others do.

          The teacher has to be a “salesman”: that means that some personalized attention is necessary to make the subject at least enough fun to learn the basics. These subjects are not that exotic at K-6 or even K-12 levels.

          • monicaroland

            Don, you are absolutely correct that ALL children should be given equal opportunity to learn and grow — to the best of their abilities.  You are also correct that teachers are not only artists, but also in sales.  Every day I did my best to have children LOVE the printed word.  My students all received “extra” reading help. Many went on to excel;  others could not (or would not) respond to the extra time and attention.  Don, every one of these students was provided with the same education as the others, I’m proud to say.

        • William

          Thank you for the first hand information. You know down here in FL, only 54 percent of the 10 graders passed the reading exam on the FCAT test. Last year it was 50 percent, so the inability to read seems to be pretty wide spread around the country.

          • monicaroland

            William — probably because the tests are too hard!

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Good on ya’; more teachers’ input is needed here.

      Hey, isn’t Lockport the town with all those locks on the Erie Canal? It’s quite a sight.

      • monicaroland

        TF, Lockport is indeed on the Erie Canal.  And yes, we’re famous for our canal locks.  I’ve lived all over the country, but have called Lockport home for 40-plus years.  It’s a great place to live.

  • Kathy

    I’m not comfortable with more testing, but using terms like “sadistic” led me to believe that Mr. Hacker might possibly be a nutjob. 

  • phdmomtn

    The problem with common core is the underlying assumption that all kids learn at the same rate, at the same age.  This contradicts everything we know about how people learn.

  • Marianne Downing

    Common Core has never been field tested anywhere.  This is a great national experiment being imposed on our kids. Also concerned that “college ready” has been admitted, by a common core standards writer, to mean only a “nonselective community college”.  The standards for math in high school are insufficient for selective colleges.  Problem is, common core will cost districts so much to implement, that few districts will be able to provide offerings that go beyond common core, to help students prepare for selective colleges.

    • monicaroland

      I agree with so much of what you say.  The standards may be too “low” for elite colleges, but they are far too high for less academically gifted students.  We need a system with several tiers, or diplomas, to meet the needs of ALL students.

      I was an A student growing up in tough Catholic schools in the Fifties and Sixties, but I always struggled with high school math.  I did it, but it was a massive struggle.  Never used the higher math since.  (My father was a math genius, but the gene bypassed me.)    Now, 6th and 7th grade students in NY State are studying algebra, and it is far too difficult for half of them.  

      • Marianne Downing

        I think that is what the Dr. Hacker (sp?) was trying to get across in this call, but no one wants to agree to it because it is not politically correct – not everyone is meant for (or even wants) the college path.  Our goal should be to expect that best from each student based on his/her ability, but that can never be a one-size-fits-all standard.  I was the math/science one in my family and got BSEE and MSEE.  My brother went to vocational school and became an electrician.  He is wildly successful at it, both professionally and financially.  Re: algebra, we have big issues with that in my Mass town, because so many students are being shut out of it in 8th grade, so they can’t take Calculus in HS, which is what selective colleges want.  The issue is what is the dividing line for who’s ready for 8th grade algebra?  Some towns here say 80% of kids are ready.  Some towns (like mine) are now saying only 10% are ready – hence the uproar.  Reality is probably somewhat in the middle, but providing multiple levels that would best serve our students seems to be beyond the common core proponents.  No one likes to hear about tracking, but it serves both the high achievers and the struggling students best, by matching education to an appropriate pace for each.

        • monicaroland

          I wish I had said this as well as you did!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1619971607 Valerie Hamilton-Brodie

    Teaching to the test. That’s what is happening. Connecticut has been piloting the CC for last few years. We teach to the test. As a special educator, I feel that the CC is doomed to track students who do not meet the standard. Two steps forward, three steps back.

  • Yar

    Should the special education teacher’s students take the same test as the AP teacher?  Should both teachers be evaluated by the same standard?  I work with a group that sends backpack meals home with kids for weekends because they live in households that don’t feed them.  Is this the teacher’s fault? Should the teacher be evaluated by standardized tests that hungry children are forced to take?  There are no simple answers!

    • Steve_the_Repoman

      Thank you for your comments and your work.

      I feel that part of the answer is what you are doing in your local community – what motivated you to care about other people’s children?

      • Yar

        I am aware of how bad it can get if we don’t invest in the next generation.  All will be lost if we don’t pass along the skills to manage our world.  We have gotten so complex in our world that we must simplify and rebuild local communities.  Think globally, act locally.  Self interest, as a response to selfish interest.  

  • creaker

    Big problem with standardized testing – teaching is not only directed to the test, it is directed to those having the hardest time with the curriculum because they are the ones most likely to affect overall scores. The end result is the bottom still don’t get it, and the rest don’t get the opportunity to excel at anything – become terminally bored with school, are never challenged and never learn how to learn.

    • J__o__h__n

      That isn’t the fault of the test but of the failed idea of having students of all ability levels in the same class. 

      • creaker

        It’s hard to avoid when you’re sticking 40 kids in a classroom.

        • J__o__h__n


  • amlnurse

    this fella (Prof Hack?) makes me feel like he would prefer to divide the populations into Alpha, Beta and Deltas, how shameful to rule out the child from a poor neighborhood as if they have nothing to offer and no way to succeed. Everyone needs and deserves the same access and same education, they may not do well or they may excel, but a national standard would help to steer students into appropriate post secondary education/training. why do conservatives think being educated and competing with the rest of the world (rather than being 30-something in our standing) is a bad thing??

    • phdmomtn

      the low-income kids of course deserve every chance they can get at a great education–the problem is that they come to school hungry and underprepared–teachers struggle just to get them to learn basic skills (I have friends who teach and they tell me about their struggles); the real problem is the assumption that all kids of all backgrounds should be held to the same standards–it’s just unrealistic.  No one is asking the trooops on the ground–the teachers–what the real situation is.  _They_ know why these kids can’t succeed, and it’s not for lack of effort on the teachers’ part.

  • Scott B

    Hacker sounds like too many of the far right people, using hyperbolic words to scare and bias people before they know anything about. It’s the same tactics used by those throughout history to keep people uneducated and under their thumb as the only source of “truth”.

  • Scott B

    I’m looking forward to Texas not being influence the textbooks of the nation, when the majority of students will have much the same information. 

  • Scott B

    Standardized tests don’t help the kids, as teachers have to teach to the test and not the way their students learn. Some kids are whip smart but don’t take tests well.  Nor do those tests show how the kids grasp the ideas, only that they know what answer to give.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Many commenters appear upset with Professor Hacker’s style.  What I hear is passion.  

  • Jon

    Sounds like American test system wants to be like the Chinese and Chinese one want to be like Americans. How ironic!

  • MAmathteacher

    Thanks to Prof. Hacker for his insight into realities of
    underfunded schools. As a math teacher, I am all for high standards. But high
    standards are only reasonable if we have first ensured that all students have
    access to high quality public education. And the Common Core puts the cart before
    the horse.

    Why is the funding focused first on testing? Our public schools need
    adequate funding for day-to-day operations. I’ve taught in classrooms where I
    didn’t have enough textbooks or desks for all of my students. Can we fix that


    • phdmomtn

      I suspect this push is driven by the testing industry. They are making a fortune on this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1270475378 Ellen Blanchette

    I wonder about our comparison with other countries. Do they really educate everyone like we do in America? I doubt it. In many nations only children of the wealthy or well connected get that good education we hear about. In India I know there are poor children who are not considered worthy of education and few places around the world offer free K-12 education to everyone. So is it fair to judge our educational system in comparison to these?

  • Scott B

    It’s good that students all learn the same things, but standardized test don’t prove much. Norway has one test they give to senior HS students, and they score high consistently.

  • maryrita

    Professor Hacker is not making the important point, which is that students in poor neighborhoods, who in general are needier than their peers in wealthier areas, are given far fewer resources to help them get over the high bar set by these standards. It’s not that “the kid from the shack” can’t get over the bar, but that our society is not giving his or her school the resources to help that student. Statistics on this point are ample.

  • majorml

    The proponent of these tests used an off-hand example of what can be expected, i.e., third graders should be able to read critically including understanding and being able to write about motivations and interactions of characters in story, etc.  Many boys in third grade are not the least interested in this aspect of literature and have a hard time with it.  My son just graduated magna cum laude from a very good college.  In third grade he really liked reading, but hated this “touchy-feely” aspect of books he had to read in school and had to answer questions about. Most of his public education in literature focused on books that are not of interest to many boys and on these aspects of literature which they are not interested in writing about.

  • Paula Parnagian

    I am with Andrew Hacker on this.  The Common Core, like all high stakes testing, is Kafka-esque.  75% of all students who fail Massachusetts MCAS are special ed students.  Where is the fairness of that?  What about civil rights?  These ed reform efforts, initially targeted to help the under-served, have hurt the under-served the most.

    We can do better than this!

    • Bruno_Andersen

      You don’t think it’s more Kafka-esque to lower or eliminate standards so everyone “succeeds” while our university labs and businesses are left wanting for qualified STEM grads and our kids perform worse on global tests than 17 other nations whom we used to our-perform?

      Aren’t the 1st- through 11th-grade graduation ceremonies enough for you?!

    • Bruno_Andersen

      Do you expect special-ed kids to PASS the “Massachussetts MCAS [exam]?

      Americans are rapidly becoming the special-ed kids of the developed world and you’re worried about us giving exams that special ed students cannot pass?

      You ended by saying “we can do better than this” – perhaps you mean, “we should do collectively worse to save our most intellectually challenged the hurt of being outperformed”?

      How about we don’t make special ed kids take those tests? How about we don’t grade them or give them all “A*” grades?

      Special ed is already bleeding much-needed money out of a system that lets poor gifted kids languish or worse. Why ask what more can we do to dumb everything down further or work to find more ways to optimize for and celebrate the lowest common denominator?!

  • maryrita

    A problem with judging kids’ futures by the SAT is that families with money have their kids take SAT prep classes and tutors. Let’s talk about that!

  • Yar
  • Annie Tye

    I wish my high school would have set higher standard for teaching; I think a common core curriculum that is strong in science and math is one of the best things we can offer our kids to make sure they have the best opportunities as adults.  The alternative is America slipping even further behind countries who make education a priority.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1576034077 Todd Johnson

    I think your participants are missing the point: if we want to improve education we need to make it student centered. Any test that is based on grade level performance is politician-centered, not student centered. How about a discussion about Sir Ken Robinson’s views on education? See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zDZFcDGpL4U

  • Guest

    Tom, can one of your guess please tell me what is going to happen with new immigrant children that do not speak English ahow are these standard testing will affect them? if one does not speak English doesn’t mean one is incompetent

  • Andy

    Whether the common-core is correct or not Mr Hackers perspective facilitates increased segregation of education relative to social economic standards within the US. This is a recurring perspective of people who have the ability to “afford” better education  and have a naive and ignorant perspective to areas of the country that are in desperate need of social support, irrespective of what published works they may have.

    Providing lower standards to “failing” states, hides the failure in the education system by sweeping them under the rug and provides no goal to help drive improvements, while simultaneously creates a false sense of success. US school students rate about 20th in the world for academic achievement at higher school level, yet 1st in confidence. False testing and incomparable testing drives this continued failure.

    The core question is, how can education be delivered to all students across the US irrespective of social-economic standard, and have a common measurement to identify the weaknesses, taking into consideration any special education needs.

  • Andy

    Whether the common-core is correct or not Mr Hackers perspective facilitates increased segregation of education relative to social economic standards within the US. This is a recurring perspective of people who have the ability to “afford” better education  and have a naive and ignorant perspective to areas of the country that are in desperate need of social support, irrespective of what published works they may have.

    Providing lower standards to “failing” states, hides the failure in the education system by sweeping them under the rug and provides no goal to help drive improvements, while simultaneously creates a false sense of success. US school students rate about 20th in the world for academic achievement at higher school level, yet 1st in confidence. False testing and incomparable testing drives this continued failure.

    The core question is, how can education be delivered to all students across the US irrespective of social-economic standard, and have a common measurement to identify the weaknesses, taking into consideration any special education needs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000481921416 Liz Lee

    Comparisons to China, Japan and Korea but there is no discussion on “culture” and how “culturally” prepared most Asian cultures are for “standardization” that the US prides itself not to be…the rise of the individual rather than the collective.

  • Ion 412

    I feel your professor is confounding 2 elements..
    We may agree with him that choices in curriculum maybe not relevant but that isn’t an argument against high standards. This discussion seems to confound that.

  • Coastghost

    But of course students adhering to whatever “standards” are set for them will continue to be exposed to the culture at large, with all of its appeals, all of it distractions and diversions: much if not most of the learning taking place every day in the US occurs in non-academic settings. Instead of curbing pernicious influences, parents seem persuaded they help impart “sophistication” to their kids by plugging them in to television, the internet, music media: exposure to media with unmediated access to it. Intellectual maturity? Emotional maturity? Doubtful outcomes, when fame-obsessed, money-driven, drug-addled, sex-crazed, fashion-dazzled performers and producers are dispensing their wares without protest.
    As long as Americans demonstrate their decided preference for entertainment over education, tinkering with academic standards will have only a quite limited effect.

    • 1Brett1

      I don’t disagree…although next time, maybe give it a bit more punch; you seemed to be holding back too much in your comment.

      • Coastghost

        Sometimes I model restraint in spite of myself.

    • Isernia

      You have diagnosed the basic problem – our culture promotes show-biz, media celebrity, sports crazy, consumerism “values”, so why do we expect kids to put all these messages aside to spend much of the day with school books, homework and yes, test-taking. Sex, roller-blading stunts, drugs, fantasy, computer games and rap then become escapes for teens. I’ve seen so many go that route even though they come from “good families” and are above average in intelligence.

  • paige50

    My son has a learning disability and these tests are nothing more than a lesson in frustration for him…and imply (unfairly) that his teachers aren’t doing their jobs.  I will continue to fight to have him excused from standardized tests, but have so far been unsuccessful.

  • Jessie Martin

    From a former high school teacher: I take Prof Hacker’s point that if students have experienced a very low quality of education for the first 8 or 10 years of school, these new tough standards will set those students up to fail miserably.

    Here’s a solution: institute tough standards only in elementary schools at first, support teachers and students to meet those standards, then those students will be prepared to meet higher standards in middle school by the time they get there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mathias-Detamore/12926446 Mathias Detamore

    Let’s take into consideration the Teacher Cheating scandal recently in Atlanta… Do standardized test work for students or does it leave public schools scrambling to cover the posteriors with the potential to corrupt the entire enterprise?

    • Bruno_Andersen

      Unscrupulous, dishonorable, incompetent and unethical people will put their own self interests ahead of children’s…but that’s a major fact about American education in general.

      We can’t optimize to accommodate and try to keep honest the scumbags. We need to spot and eject the criminally negligent from any system as crucial as the education of our youth.

  • Johan Corby

    So Hacker’s response to everything is the educational equivalent of “get off my lawn” and fear, fear, fear.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    “Fixed path”

    Well that’s a lot of the problem right there.
    Am I the only one that thinks that most ANYONE can be trained to perform most ANY task (or function in society) given the opportunity? Many of the most productive and reliable people I have ever worked with didn’t know their head from a hole in the ground when they first came to work. But they learned…
    Go figure.

  • NYMathteacher

    The Common Core in NY has not been implemented appropriately.  As a high school math teacher, I will be greeting ninth-graders who began core-curriculum last year for the first time.  As one of your guests mentioned, there will be huge gaps between what they are expected to know and what they do know.  I am working with my department members to plan the new core curriculum algebra course for next year but only one of the five modules for algebra have been released.  Looking at the table of contents for the module, the intent is to have 24 lessons in this module but when I look to see examples of what we are expected to teach, the table of contents have “x’s” for the page numbers because they do not exist yet.  The only relevant material included are sample assessment questions for the module. We are told more information will be released at the end of July or beginning of August.  Is this what we want – a rushed and poorly thought out program for our students?  We need to take our time and get it done correctly – with quality.
    As usual for New York, we are moving backwards while claiming to improve our standards.  The current algebra exam only requires students to score in the mid 30% range to pass the exam.  Even many educators in NY do not realize this fact.  The general public is shocked when I mention it.
    As a teacher, and I believe I speak for most teachers, I am all for high standards.  Let educators make these decisions, not government or textbook companies.  The curriculum needs to be phased in over time and appropriate time must be given to create the high quality lessons we all want to teach our students.  We all want our students to be critical thinkers, but this does not happen as instantly as today’s society wants to believe.  The instant gratification we crave and are used to in the digital age has been a detriment to extended tasks and multi-step problem solving we try to develop in our students.
    Thanks for having your show today – we enjoyed it and hope more people begin to question the implementation of the common core curriculum.

  • GibsonGirl99

    As a person who moved frequently during elementary school, I applaud the idea of a common core. But testing aside, a common core is a half measure at best–what we should attempt is a COMMON CURRICULUM! My family moved frequently when I was in elementary school. As such, I had trouble with several subjects because in moving I missed/came in late on crucial concepts and techniques. And I never caught up. This would be obviated by adopting a curriculum that is the same across the nation. Europe has done the for decades. Also, if we want to test, we need to test more like Germany–with the attendant separation into college/vocational tracks. And, we need ALL schools computerized completely, immediately. I have a friend from Australia who came to the U.S. for graduate school. He was amazed that he had to print & turn in papers, as he had never done that at school. Course, this would all be easily done if we the public would get over the idea that we can have excellence without paying for it. Schools should be like restaurants: if you want good food, you pay the cook more than anyone else. Teachers should be at the top of the pyramid, salaries/positions for the bureaucracy should be halved, and it should be illegal for banks to charge usurious interest on loans for any school improvements. Then we might have a school system that could compete with the rest of the world.

  • geneveavignon

    As a World Language teacher in Iowa, I see the Iowa Core as the death of anything not on it:  music, art, consumer science, etc. Regarding the Assessments and the assessment driven mentality of the Core,  attaching any kind of penalty, financial incentive or assessment of teachers to these test scores has created a negative culture already.  For the first time in 27 years of teaching, I had a student ask me to teach to the test.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      dont worry the adults all cheat whenever there is money involved

  • JTerrill

    I am a high school mathematics teacher in New York who greatly appreciates rigorous curriculum and high standards.  However, I completely disagree with the way in which our common core is being implemented.  As you work through the sample end of module assessment (only sample problems available) I think it would be outstanding to get students to be able to think and reason at that level. Unfortunately, the state has decided to implement the Algebra I curriculum in the fall of 2013 (yes, that is this September), but we only have the skeleton of the first module — not one single example of the type of work that our students must be able to complete. We have been promised the curriculum all year, but are now told we will get it at the end of JULY — and we must implement it and have students ready to test on it in June.  In addition, this test is being administered on June 3 or 4, and returned to the state immediately so they can “decide on what scores should be.”
    Many problems with that scenario, mostly – if you make an honest and fair test, why can you not decide on the passing rate before you give it?
    Overall, my feelings on the common core are as follows: If it is implemented correctly starting at the lower grades and over time, it will be great. However, as usual in New York, we will not put much thought into the process and what is best for students, but rather what the test will look like.

    • MrBigStuff

      I agree entirely. As a public school educator in Maryland, we have only received a skeletal framework of what the implementation of CC is supposed to look like, yet we will be fully implementing it this upcoming school year. In our data-driven obsessed education culture we are requiring the students to accomplish more, while holding teachers and administrators even more accountable while forgetting to foster things like exploration, creativity and the interest in learning. These CC standardized tests are designed to be a “cure-all” for the struggles that our system is experiencing. 

  • maryrita

    Tom, there are so many excellent advocates for the view that our “Race to the Top” obsession with standardized testing is harmful to children and to a great educational system in our country. Prof.  Hacker was not a good spokesperson. I hope you will give time soon to someone who can make the case clearly, without the hyperbole and lack of focus we heard from Hacker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eiselerich Richard Eisele

    I have spent 40 years teaching at all levels of education from elementary school to graduate school. Once again, well-meaning “educators” who develop these standards are totally missing the elements that really matter in an effective educational program. Student curiosity and enthusiasm are two of the most important factors that are fundamental to the learning process. Give me a student who loves to learn or is curious about themselves and the world around them and that student will be an effective learner. That should be the primary objective of any good program: produce students who are curious and eager to learn. Also, a good educational program should recognize how important the mind, body, and spirit connection is to the learning process; the last thing we should be doing is reducing the amount of music, art, and PE in our schools.  The kind of question I would ask students on an assessment would be: On a scale of one to ten, how much fun do you have in school? or how much joy do you experience when you are learning something new? 

    • SudburyValleySchool

      Yes, the education “revolution” should begin with those exact questions: How much fun do you have in school? How much joy do you experience when you are learning something new. And even more critical is that children/all students have the freedom to choose exactly it is that they want to learn.

    • ExcellentNews

      “Fun” as the primary objective of education? How about knowledge, self-control, and critical thinking? But then again, I probably hold on to such ridiculous sadistic concepts because I did not go to school here.

      No wonder this country is sinking…

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        none of those things are on the test either

    • Mattyster

       The Core Standards say what to teach, not how to teach.  There are things every educated person should know and a great teacher can inspire students to learn them.  I agree that “the last thing we should be doing is reducing the amount of music, art, and PE in our schools.”  Why would core standards cause that?  We’re already there and not because of high standards but because we underfund education.

  • Vax_Choice_Human_Right

    Is it true that some teachers are getting into trouble if they spot constitutional violations in “surveys” being mined as part of new school assessments? 


  • Mattyster

    Glen Beck objects?  Of course he does – objective standards undermine his mission to misinform America.

  • 1Brett1

    Hacker could have made some interesting points, but he seemed to use whatever cheap tactics he could to broad-brush and reduce the whole thing to a simplistic characterization instead.

    His main argument seemed to be that standardized testing itself creates a socio-economic/racial bias. The question becomes: do the proposed tests in “common core” actually create a bias/unfair advantage/disadvantage for different groups? He really provided nothing particular compelling to support his claims.  

    • Bruce94

      Right.  Did I hear him correctly?  Didn’t he cite Texas as an example of a state that’s doing education reform in a way that he finds preferable?  IMO it’s hardly a model for the rest of the country, nor a compelling reason to give his claims much credibility–Texas, a state with some of the highest rates of illiteracy, H.S. drop-out, and teen pregnancy that you can find anywhere in the lower 48.  Not to mention, a state that can boast some of the highest rates of income inequality, low-wage job creation, and families at or below the poverty level.  Yeah, let’s by all means follow Texas’ model of education reform!

      • 1Brett1

        His condescending tone also made it difficult to hear any points he could have made had he not been so arrogant and so obviously frothing to condemn something he clearly is opposed to by using any cheap means possible…TEXAS?!?!?! WHA?!?! Is what I would have said if I had taken him halfway seriously…

      • Bruno_Andersen

        It’s worse than that…he doesn’t think we should follow Texas’ model for education reform…HE DOESN’T THINK WE NEED EDUCATION REFORM!

        Remember when he said he’s sat in on lessons in classrooms from “literally Michigan to Mississippi” and he has, based in that exhaustive, empirical research, determined that American education is super-great, thank you very much?

        This guy’s a professor and a leading light in the steady-state, US education non-reform, nothing-to-look-at-here-keep-movement and in that one comment he demonstrated:

        1) A real knack for alliteration at the expense of geographic comprehensiveness (look at how small a chunk of the US map MI to MS covers)

        2) Possible geographic illiteracy (based on the previous cited remark)

        3) A strong anti-empiricism and reliance on anecdotal “data”

        4) Comfort with traditional, union-endorsed teacher evaluation methodology (casual in-classroom observation by a mathematically illiterate Pollyanna cheerleader figure)

        5) That he’s possibly literally one of those people who literally overuses for emphasis the word “literally.” You sorta expect more from such a big-brained man of letters [but not numbers.]

        Who cares about the kids? The teachers are alright!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.holgersen Brandon Holgersen

    As well intention as national standards and teaching standards are in general, they do not educate children. Teachers have to spend the entire school year spoon feeding children information that might as well be nothing more than trivia. What is the point of teaching a child anything if they don’t know why they need to know it?

    Critical thinking skills should be the emphasis of education, so that children will grow up with the ability to learn anything and not be forced to learn an arbitrary set of “knowledge,” which might as well be a random string of numbers, because the facts are taught not how they should be used or why they are important.

    Education standards are just a way for politicians to pat themselves on the back and have a tangible way to show their constituents that they are “helping” education. If politicians really wanted to help education, they would stop cutting school funding, stop laying off teachers and stop shuffling children through the system just to pad graduate statistics.

    These core standards will fix nothing, because they don’t address the real problem that teachers are not allowed to really teach beyond teaching memorization.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1233065114 Regina Ferguson

      Well stated and on point!  We teach to the test and have for years!  Teaching to learn went out the window years ago.  It’s all about the test.  If you don’t pass, then there is intense remedial teaching for a few days and test again! Of course when you are teaching only what’s on the test, the kids pass.  I don’t mean the exact question, but the content. Drill, drill, drill, retest and WOW, nearly everyone has passed. But the students did not learn a darn thing all year, except to pass a test.  

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        i am sure they are all prepared for lucrative careers in the test taking industry

    • Bruno_Andersen

      My teachers in the 1980s weren’t required to teach to the test, and I assure you they were not even beginning to scratch the surface of pedagogic modalities – and I assure you, I had to learn those two big words well away from the classroom.

      Tests didn’t break American education – they just have us a tool with which to quantify just how terribly broken American education has been since, I assume, the 1970s.

      I’m sure there are still places that don’t teach to the test and I’m sure they generally suck just as badly as Atlanta and Chicago and Modesto and LA and Houston and Appalachia.

      Blamer, blame thyself!

  • SudburyValleySchool

    Tests, homework, grades, and “core standards” do nothing but kill children’s inherent drive to learn and master their world. Our students are free to learn what, when, and how they choose to. Our graduates are free-thinking, courageous, and self-directed. And at least one of them is making headlines today, Laura Poitras, co-author of the Guardian’s piece on PRISM. Don’t all children deserve an education free of coercion? (www.sudval.org)

    • smithfamily1998

      Unfortunately your school is probably out of reach for the majority of the children in this country due to costs associated with privately run schools.  Again I will site that your school succeeds because families can afford to send their children to you (or you have an amazing scholarship fund and with this economy, it’s probably not helping very many).  I go again with saying that successful schools are always going to be filled with families that can provide the emotional, physical, mental, and in your case, financial support that is needed for success

    • Bruno_Andersen


      This is from the Sudbury Valley School’s website:

      “The [Sudbury Valley] school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, or national or ethnic origin.”

      And this, too:

      “Tuition and fees [for the Sudbury Valley School] are as follows: admissions interview, $50; visiting week, $250; annual tuition for the first child in the family, $8200; and a sliding scale for siblings. To be considered for enrollment at the school, please complete the Admission Interview Request Form and send it to us, together with the interview fee of $50 per student.”

      I guess they only discriminate based on socio-economics.

      I’m sure they have kids on scholarships – what percentage? What’s the average tuition per student?

      Like Hacker, they seem not worry much about all the shacklings! That’s why Jesus invented menial labor, I suppose.

      This is a good reminder that not all 1-percenters could be mistaken for the Koch brothers.

      Is Hacker on the Sudbury Valley School’s board of directors?

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        if its good enough for rich kids why should not the same model be tried with not rich kids?

        • Bruno_Andersen

          It’s not, though. It’s good enough for spoiled, gifted-and-talented, goofy-and-over-indulgent-parents’ kids. Most kids in America don’t even know where to begin and I’ll bet most SVS kids graduate with major gaps in their knowledge.

          Let kids set the menu and consumption of spinach tends to go way down! If not, then it’s not the system they claim it is!

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            have you ever visited the school? they are not allowed to graduate until they prove they have achieved their goals. in your terms they cant leave the table till their spinach is gone

          • Bruno_Andersen

            Never been, but their website makes it sound like the kids determine what they want to learn, so if they don’t want spinach, they can say they want watermelon and cup cakes. Right?

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            the food analogy is only so useful. they cannot graduate until they prove mastery

          • Bruno_Andersen

            Mastery of the subject matter and skills THEY get to choose to pursue. If I had been given that sort of control over my curricula, I would probably not have learned a foreign language or be mathematically literate. Kids stand to gain a lot from being coerced into studying many subjects they would naturally avoid or subjects they simply aren’t aware exist or might someday be useful or important to them.

            Sure, give them some say in what they study, electives, for example, or the high-school equivalent of a minor…but letting them select everything they’re going to study would result in much less well-rounded thinkers than the world requires.

            Heck, I have friends who went to colleges where they had to take a very minimal number of general classes and though really knowledgeable in their career areas, they’re so uninformed in other areas I’m nervous when they head to the polls or when they try to explain general phenomena to their children.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            i studied spanish in highschool for 2 or three years. no matter how hard i tried i got terrible grades and could not speak it for the life of me. one month in a spanish speaking country and i can now communicate reasonably well in spanish. we mean the best to try to teach kids things they are not interested in but it does not sink in anyways. i have been to that school and it works. did you hear the interview of the kid who created the 100% accurate early test for prostate cancer?

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      i have visited SVS and its a really great model that would be great for all children

  • ExcellentNews

    Listen to the outraged “expert” citing an example of a “sadistic standard” to require students to be able “…to represent a system of linear equations as a matrix…” (@ 16:22).

    Halloo! That IS something that the vast majority of foreign high school graduates CAN do. In the French system (which I was lucky to attend) we did it at the age of 16. It happens to be also an important basic topic in math. Do you need it to shop at Wal-Mart? No. Do you need as a study topic to inculcate logic and mental discipline in students? You bet.

    In virtually every country in the world, there is a common standard that is set HIGH. Teachers follow it. The students who can follow it become the scientists and managers. The students who can’t serve fries. BOTH categories of foreign students are vastly more knowledgeable than their peers here. Which is one of the reason why foreign countries are eating our lunch business-wise, and why American companies do not want to hire “locals”.

    It is also one of the reasons why America is falling behind in terms of social progress and democracy. After all, if you have an electorate of dunces, you get Ricky Perry and Joe the Plumber to govern you. And a Republican Congress who denies evolution. And a dummy “expert” who wonders what’s the use of teaching matrix algebra…

    • Jasoturner

      Plus, linear algebra is a really fascinating topic once you understand it.  I used to really enjoy it when I needed to use it.

    • Tyranipocrit

      ” scientists and managers”–sounds very standardized.  A nation of drones.  We are not computers.  We are human beings.  You want to stamp out all the curiosity and passion for learning in our kids–inculcate rote computations.  You will have standardized drop-outs–they may not literary drop out but their hear will. 

      • Sharpstix

        Literally*. Point proven.

      • Bruno_Andersen

        Scientists are drones?

        Einstein wept.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Even more basically, learning how to do something a standardized way has value to society.

          When driving across a river on a bridge today, I sorta enjoy the feeling that the people who designed it and ran the steel mill and poured the concrete and paved the roadbed all have a standardized base of knowledge about civil engineering and material strengths.

          Pouring concrete, for example, isn’t something a “scientist” does, but dang if there isn’t some real science in it.

        • Tyranipocrit

          not what i was saying bruno boy, but if you must–many do lack personality or creativity–even scientists admit to that.

          • Bruno_Andersen

            I’m not entirely sure what this means:

            “You want to stamp out all the curiosity and passion for learning in our kids–inculcate rote computations. You will have standardized drop-outs–they may not literary drop out but their hear will.”

            What I do know is that the current drop-out rate in the US is insanely high and the number of zombified survivors in attendance but not mentally present is huge. The current, industrialized Prussian approach to education is as robotic and one-size-fits-all as it could be.

            Something more akin to the Khan academy approach would give students much more personalized attention by teachers than they currently receive and, because of the structure of the lessons and constant micro-evaluation, they wouldn’t check out and fall behind the way they currently do.

            As for scientists lacking personality and creativity, you must know lab techs and not PIs. The scientists and technologists I know and work with make most of the people I knew in my creative writing, art history, design and art courses seem like conformist, pretentious boobs.

            Knowledge – not fashion – will set you free!

          • Tyranipocrit

            I cant finish this inane comment but, perhaps the drop out rate is so high because of standardized exams and religion and an insane gap between the rich and the poor.

    • Bruno_Andersen

      Hacker is mathematically illiterate, himself.

      Here’s a NY Times editorial he wrote. It’s entitled “Is Algebra Necessary?”

      Sorta says it all, doesn’t it.

      The guy was born in 1929! Geez, how old does that make him?!

      …if I’d grown up in a Hackererian utopia that last question would not have been rhetorical.

      : (

  • LoganEcholls

    All of the objections to “draconian standards” are ludicrous.  Higher education has always had these universal standards in the form of “college accreditation” and our American universities are  the envy of the world, and hotbeds of creativity and critical thinking as well.

    • Sy2502

      I agree with you. Lowering the standards to the lowest common denominator is what got us into the current situation. 

    • Tyranipocrit

      Higher education is “higher”–not everyone goes to college and not everyone can get in.  Elementary and secondary edu is meant to prepare you for the higher level of critical thinking.  Every college has different standards–essays, interviews, etc–it is not standardized. 

      Many would argue that higher edu is not universal.  Ivy snobs look down on State schools.  They are proud of paying 100 times too much for big classrrooms with half-dead professors whom rarely show up to class–classrooms with hundreds of students taught by pg students.  A classist education (not classy) stuck in snobbish traditional mentality and perspectives.  Hardly educated but they are proud.  Name whores.  

      • Sharpstix

        Oh yes. I am certain you got this from all the Ivy League classes you sat in on. You know exactly who we are.

        • Tyranipocrit

          I do. I did. You are so awesome. Thanks for sharing your excellence with me. I like you better now.

      • Bruno_Andersen

        Do you mean “label whores” or are name whores some kind of weird linguists?

  • OldTeacher

    While the core standards are challenging, they are only asking schools to develop an environment where kids think and reason. The Core does not ask students to regurgitate trivia as suggested by Dr. Hacker. No where in the standards is it suggested that the school environment be sterile – kids in rows doing boring worksheets and memorizing facts –   “teaching to the test.” In fact the opposite is true. In effective schools where kids do well, students are working together, solving problems, learning intersting content, writing, creating, thinking. The test is just another day and kids are able to show what they know and go on to other work. In order for that rich learning environment to occur, we need to support teachers and principals in elevating their insturctional skill and understanding of learning. 

    The tests will evolve and become more like a robust learning environment, but they’re the best we have right now. The iPad wasn’t Apple’s first stab at technology. I had an Apple IIe in my classroom a loonnngg time ago – big, cumbersome, confusing. Today, I have an iPad that is a zillion times more powerful and user friendly. The assessment system will evolve. 

    • Tyranipocrit

      Interesting the way you compare human students with computers. 

      Apples were useless back then and they are useless now.  They should not be in the classroom.

      student tech should be limited to an e-book reader.

      tests and tradition dont evolve unless we overthrow traditional systems.  You it make it sound so organic.  it is not.  In the meantime your mindless drones will be parrots that never evolve beyond squawking, and teachers will be uninspiring proctors.

      i will never educate my children in this system.  i will never accept corporate charters designed to undermine the the teacher’s union.  I would take my children to Norway.  America looks more and more like China everyday.  I live in China–if you can call it living.

      Texas doesn’t want Washingtons version of standardized testing but the do want standardized religion in schools–they do want to spread hodunk ignorance, fear and superstition.  ironically, they call it education.

    • Bruno_Andersen

      You are awesome and an amazing credit to your profession! Please consider doing more mentoring of the smart, young teachers you spot on the verge of quitting out of frustration with the ossified hierarchy and seniority-based remuneration!

      • OldTeacher

        Thanks, Mr. Andersen.

    • Tyranipocrit

       Not everyone can enjoy the infinite advantages and privileges of the 1%–or even the 10% or even the top 20% or even the top 50%.  People are not standardized.  communities ar enot standardized.  learnign is NOT standardized.

      What about those schools that cant enjoy the best and brightest highly educated teachers, FUNDING, and generations of high education.  What about those underprivileged students?  Why don’t the rich fund these schools–if they care so much?  Most people only care about number one.  clearly, over-privileged communiites will do well on tests with less effort–so what is standard about it?  The under-privileged and forgetten–the hated–will fail and that is the plan.  We need soldiers.  We need cleaners.  We need lawn-mowers.  We need low paid wage slaves at Walmart.  That is the plan.  Destroy the teacher’s union and crush education.  Hay, the 1% will be doing fine in their elite schools of opulence.

      • OldTeacher

        So how do you propose we break those barriers if not through
        education? My experience has been in a rural, high poverty public
        school, not teaching rich kids. However, I would presume teaching privileged
        kids has its own set of problems as well. You can rant about the system – that
        is your prerogative and I have certainly done a fair amount of it in my
        lifetime. There are certainly things in the American public education system
        that don’t work. 


        However, my district invested in my learning and the learning of
        my colleagues over the long term – they are still doing it –  and it resulted in remarkable learning for the
        students. Did we reach all kids? No. Did we reach a lot more kids? Yes. Did we
        learn that more is possible? Absolutely. Kids I thought weren’t able to learn
        well, did. And frankly, they learned more because of what I and my colleagues
        did in the classroom.  We couldn’t control
        what the parents did, but we could control with help from the district, what we
        did. We learned new instructional skills, we practiced them, we implemented
        them, we met in teams and studied our work and the research base, we constantly tracked the learning of our kids, and they did better every
        day in our classrooms, as well as on the state test. They read more. They wrote
        more. They talked more. They worked on harder stuff. We worked on harder stuff
        as teachers. Were there set-backs? Yes. 
        Was it easy? No. Can education change lives for kids without privilege?
        Yes. Is that the job of education? Yes.


        And in terms of rich and poor public school districts –  in
        my state the money available to the school district isn’t determined by the
        wealth of the parents or the value of the property and if it were, my school
        district wouldn’t have much. It’s determined by how many kids are in the
        school. And starting this school year, high needs schools will get more money,
        which is at it should be.

        Rail all you want. But more is possible and it doesn’t have to be related to wealth and privilege. It can be related to what the adults in the system do to improve instructional practice and I believe that takes external help and expertise. And in order for that to happen, the school board on down has to focus on improving instruction. 

  • Sy2502

    I am all for very high standards, but since we don’t have standardized children, I don’t see why we insist on standardized tests.

    • LoganEcholls

      Yeah. While we’re at it we should do away with arbitrary grade levels, and reductionist letter grades too.  Give everyone a test that is geared to their own unique emotional situation on that particular day – just like in the real world.  We should also ditch standardized English syntax and math notation, because we are individuals…  and individuals should NOT have to stoop to common standards just to communicate verbally or calculate an interest rate.   Tdhak gnork imbun josham flosse!  That means “I am an individual darnit!” in my personal language.  But why should I bother stooping to a common language to explain that???  Sheesh.  So un-American.

      • Sy2502

        Your reply is rather silly, showing me you missed my point, specifically where I said I am all for very high standards. Oh well, I guess from your reading comprehension skills you were a victim of our failing education system.

        • LoganEcholls

          No need to insult each others education =P  But honestly I think I read your own more thoroughly than you did, and was trying to point out the inherent contradiction.  How can you be simultaneously for high standards and yet against standardized messurements of those standards?  Arbitary measurements lead to arbitrary results.  For example I knew several brilliant kids who graduated with 3.9 GPAs, and an embarrassing amount of kids who could barely do basic algebra and managed a 4.3 GPA.  The scale officially went from 0.0 to 4.0.  So where does that leave people trying to objectively measure student achievement or the relative efficacy of various teaching methods?

          • Sy2502

            Standardized testing is not used in several European countries whose students to a lot better than American kids. How do THEY do it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            the tests are arbitrary

  • Robert Berube

    (1) You cannot reform education unless you introduce an element of competition within the K-12 structure. Let the public schools compete with private and charter schools for the students.

    (2) There is an inequality of educational opportunities in the US which widens the achievement gap among different socio-economic classes in the real world. Democrats are directly responsible for this discrimination. Poor children should have access to the same educational opportunities as the rich. We need a generous, means-tested voucher program to allow poor people the freedom to choose between public, private, or charter school. This will reduce achievement gap among socio-economic classes and discipline the public schools.   

    Obama did this for health-care and he could do it for education as well.

    • LoganEcholls

      Not true.  There is no public option for health care insurance or health care in Obama care.  All that bs will remain private & for profit.  So going to the hospital is still going to be just like ordering a pizza and getting the bill a month later for an unknown and arbitrary amount.  The only difference is that the cost of this pizza can no longer exceed 10% of my annual income.

      • Robert Berube

        Fair enough.

      • John Cedar

        Its 8%
        and not just of your income, but your family income.
        and the pizza can cost another 92% paid by employer.
        and it can cost even more if it is paid by  subsidy due to your income level.

  • smithfamily1998

    It doesn’t matter how standardized the curriculum is, or how high the standards are set.  School performance is ALWAYS going to be predicated on socio-economic status.  The schools that are currently performing well will continue to perform well, and if you higher the standards, they will simply perform at a higher level.  The schools who have not been scoring well will continue to struggle and with higher standards, they will appear even lower. 

    Until you can standardized how a child is raised, and in what environment they are raised, there will always be this discrepancy in the schools.  There are children who go hungry to school and come home to parents who are struggling to make ends meet and may not be home for them to help with the hours of homework that is often given, or even check to see if it’s been completed.  These can be parents who absolutely care about their children, but cannot give them the same opportunities as families better off than them.  

    • Bruno_Andersen

      Denmark proves you wrong.

      • smithfamily1998

        I knew I liked Denmark!

      • Isernia

        Denmark does not have the extremes of wealth/poverty found in the US. The social programs in Scandinavian countries promotes school readiness, and education is culturally valued as more important than professional sports, celebrity lives, rock stars and consumerism, the moniker of American Boomer’s kids.

        • Bruno_Andersen

          You’re right about Denmark’s narrower socio-economic range, so lop off the top and bottom of the US sample set and it would still be true.

          As for teachers being more celebrated than rockstars…I recommend you take a teacher and a rockstar to a mall in Denmark and test that silly assertion. I’ve spent time in Denmark and I assure you that celebrity is not trumped by teaching credentials…as exhilarating as that concept might seem to America’s under-appreciated educators.

          • Isernia

            ABBA ?  ABBA ?  Mama Mia !

          • Bruno_Andersen

            Dude, ABBA’s Swedish…not Danish. (But close.)

            That’s probably in the geography section of the core curriculum, right next to the meatballs.

          • Isernia

            My Danish friend is married to a Swede…when she saw Mamma Mia on stage, she danced in the aisles. probably because there is only a bridge separating her Danish town with her husband’s.  Geography aside, Scandinavians think of themselves as a cultural entity.

          • Bruno_Andersen

            Tell that to my Swedish and Norwegian relatives!

            : )

            “What, do we all look the same to you?”

          • Isernia

            Yes, there is an historic rivalry between and among these Norse, but when it comes to stereotypes, they are all blond and fair skinned at least to my Italian heritage eyes.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          i was sure something was rotten there

  • Tyranipocrit

    The last comment sums up the truth very nicely.  This is not about education–it is about subsidizing Apple and Microsoft.   Guess who has been lobbying hard in Washington.  Check the bedsheets in DC for stains.  Human stains.

    And that is the crux of the conversation which On Point missed or ignored. Once again–our time, energy, tax dollars and children are sacrificed to the 1%.

    America eats its young. What a sad sad country.

    • Bruno_Andersen

      America eating its young is sending year after year of students through a broken public education system staffed largely by some of the lowest-performing teachers – both in the classroom when they were students and now, as the adult supervision – only to blame the students and children for their relative failure.

      Every child in South Korea gets a laptop, and it doesn’t seem to hurt their ability to out-learn their US counterparts, or hurt their teachers’ ability to out-teach ours.

      US education, like US healthcare, is among the most expensive, least effective and least competitive systems in the world.

      And no, our universities don’t count. That’s a system run by and for your dreaded 1%.

      • Tyranipocrit

         do you really want to emulate Asian educatoin–rote learning, and standardized exams, a culture of exams?  Better to emulate Norway i think.  I agree–there should be a mandatory computer class–1,2,3…but in every classroom with every student.  Do you teach? 

        Mobile devices are a waste of time–a bunch of needless gimmicks.  Escapism.  Interrupting class.  Interrupting life.  Rude. Impolite, Noisy.  We are going to be a world of autistics.

        What evidence is there that mobile devices or computers of any kind improve education, learning, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, analysis and synthesis.  What about penmanship.  My handwriting has become horrendous since I gave up a pen for a keyboard. 

        Computers have glitches–more often than not.  They never work right.  People obsess over them.  And society, humanity is lesser for it.  Nature is dying.  Resources are dwindling–air quality, water quality, lifestyle ruined to make your toys. 

        There is a time and a place and a use for computers but we have become slaves to nonsense.

        The poor in under-funded neighborhoods should be held to lesser exam standards because they have less advantages that foster good education–and it starts in the home.  If your parents are highly educated your kids have many advantages.  If you are present in the home and teach by example your kids have an advantage.

        The best thing about Korean education is that the teachers are the best of the best, apparently, and they are paid handsomely.  That is the key.  Pay teachers 100x more.  Get involved.  Respect them.  STOP blaming teachers.  It takes a village.  I was a student–I couldn’t blame my teacher for not coming to class, not doing reading or writing.  I couldn’t blame my teacher for daydreaming or acting out in classes–it was my fault and no other.  Good teaching inspires.  But at the end of the day, I have to be a willing, engaged student who puts in the work–that asks questions and is encouraged to think critically.  Exams are a waste of time.  You forget everything after you take the exam because it was just rote memorization and exam tactics–not learning. 

        This blame of teachers is part of the 1% agenda
        to undermine public education and unions and YES to increase the gap between the rich and poor–but mostly just to FORCE 300 million people to buy their products at great expense.  Gimmicks.  Nonsense.  Waste of time.  Talk to a human being in the flesh.  Be human.

        • Bruno_Andersen

          In fact, I taught at one of the most prestigious land-grant universities in the US. I was rated highly by students and faculty, but never set out to make it a career and went back into the greater stimulation and competition of the rat race after two years.

          And I think there’s probably a happy medium between Korea and Denmark that would be best for America.

          Are you familiar with the Khan Academy? That model – even more than MOOCs – is going to revolutionize education…and it’s going to do so with a tablet in every lap.

          Mobile devices disrupt the current, industrialized Prussian-model classroom because they are not core to the lesson, far from it.

          It’s funny because you say tests are obsolete. I suppose you’re right, if by tests you mean the long, multiple-choice exams teachers commonly use to avoid having to grade essay answers and other forms of personalized responses.

          I actually believe lectures are obsolete. The Prussian approach to pouring a bunch of the same information into many heads at once – think “operating THEATER” lectures from early German medical schools – doesn’t accommodate students totally varied absorption rates and information assimilation styles.

          If you don’t know about it, I recommend you study the Khan Academy and their personalized mass-learning approach. Their use of technology feeds students important concepts and material in logical, bite-sized chunks, then tests their mastery of the information in a non-threatening, low-stakes way, while giving the instructor real-time visibility into who’s getting it and who isn’t, and frees her/him up to give each student who needs it the personal attention necessary to get them to the next subject. In many ways, it’s a lot more work than the current model – but isn’t that true of anytime someone is given the tools – and expectation – to reduce defect/failure rates from the mid-double-digits to close to zero?

          No gimmicks there! It flat-out works and, unlike the current, union-protected, traditional approach in nearly all school districts, the Khan approach is being observed, studied, measured, and constantly improved. Empirically and without political and economic corruption.

          I love how you and your cohort frame all efforts to improve the educational opportunities and life chances of kids, many poor, stuck in terrible, failing schools and classrooms as some kind of evil conspiracy of the evil 1% against the heroic teacher unions.

          Do you really think everyone who wants to improve schools, students, and teachers through innovative and verifiable means are richie-riches?! Unlikely. It’s just the only people with the financial means to fund large efforts (and garner the most attention for it) are rich – HAVE to be rich. The opposition is as well-funded as the 1%. Look at Randi W’s annual budget.

          Besides, do you really think Bill Gates hates you?! Do you think he hates teachers? Does he fight Malaria in Africa because he hates mosquitos? The guy quite sincerely hates seeing people – especially children – suffer from neglect and structural ineffectiveness, and the inefficiencies (and sometimes corruption) of government and other bureaucracies.

          Great teachers and administrators have been proven to inspire mediocre students to be good ones and good students to be great.

          Our teachers hail from the bottom two-thirds of their educational cohort, while most of the 17 – SEVENTEEN – nations who out-teach the heck out of the US hail from the top-third (which means even more because their top-third is better educated than ours.)

          We need to keep our great teachers, make our good teachers great, and draw the termination line somewhere above mediocre. Oh, and we need to honestly measure the quality if our teachers. Most districts have miraculously high ratings for 90+% of their teachers – unbelievably high scoring for a nation that’s rapidly falling behind its peers.

          You and I agree that our teachers should be paid more, but I think it should be based on ability and effort – not for how many years somebody can resist quitting. Pay increases based primarily on seniority is the financial equivalent of social promotion! It’s terrible. It doesn’t incentivize the most impactful behavior or reward contribution.

          Many senior teachers make close to $100,000 per year. That’s not terrible pay in many places. The problem is we’re often wasting it on people who aren’t doing a fantastic job while harder-working teachers burn out.

          Many nations that outperform us pay their teachers no more than we pay ours. Also, many of our teachers make more as teachers than they ever could, based on their abilities and performance, in the private sector…remember, bottom-two-thirds, intellectually.

          The truth is the time is coming when the US teacher’s lectures are about to be replaced by better teachers’ mini-lectures – or even long-form lectures (from Stanford, MIT, etc., online) – delivered digitally into the classroom and teachers are going to need to no longer lecture for a living, but measurably, verifiably TEACH for a living.

          And that is great for students.

          Also, just to be clear, I realize there are many teachers teaching today – what, 10, 15, 20%? – who are great and already globally competitive. They don’t have anything to fear. In fact, they’re most likely going to get raises.

          The rest are going to have to stop making excuses and stop blaming everyone but themselves – students, parents, testing companies, mobile gadgets, culture, society, $40k per year, the Village, tachyon waves, etc. – for failing at their jobs, and improve and evolve, or move to teach somewhere where their effectiveness will not be measured.

          Hopefully Bill Gates will eradicate Malaria in those places before they move there.

      • krhenderson

        It’s very easy to blame teachers, but most people I know who have struggled in the past have a teacher to thank for making it through a tough time (in childhood).  If kids come in hungry, haven’t had a stable place to live in years, face abuse and violence at home and in their neighborhood, and I have them for 45 minutes a day for English class, you really think I should be expected to overcome all that with my brilliant lessons about Shakespeare?  I might be able to help them through it, but that also might not show up on a silly multiple choice test.  We have to think about what educators can really be expected to do, and how to measure whatever that is.  We’re way off the mark with testing.

        • Bruno_Andersen

          This is valid…for our hungry students. But there are many more children who are not hungry who are failing – and whom WE are failing. The poorest of the poor, the ones facing food instability, are almost impossible to teach, but they’re also not anywhere close to a majority of the children in the US that have been allowed to fall behind the rest of the world.

          Our whole system underperforms our peers – not just our poorest students!

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        i am pretty sure korean culture places a much higher value on education than ours. clearly it is so as we do not provide our students with laptops for example

      • Tyranipocrit

        it educated you i presume, smart guy. I cant agree with anything you say. If its not effective it is baceause of standardixed testing and extremey unequal funding and priviliges. If our school system is so bad and Asia’s is so f-ing great then why do they all send thier rich kids here and why do all the poor Asian kids dream of coming here to get a real education. Our health care system is so f-ing expensive because it is mired in pooitics and a private insurance scam. You say nothing that demonstrates your ability or knowledge to teach at a university or anywhere else.

        Please excuse my typing-its never good–my spell check doesnt change words and my keyboard is made for Asian hands, and i dont have time to f-around.

        • Bruno_Andersen

          Your lack of faith in me and my abilities pains me so, as you’re obviously a big-time winner and a towering intellect.

          I’m sorry you can’t agree with anything I say. I’m actually rather heartened by that, as it would otherwise cast those points of common agreement into doubt.

          You also, obviously, can’t even type either. In fact, your attempt to excuse your inability to cleanly and precisely express yourself free of typos and wimpy allusions to ‘the F word’ as you no doubt call it, suggest you’re a blowhard who isn’t used to having people disagree with you, let alone belittle you and your ‘big, non-Asian hands.’

          Most smart people in America are less the products of her public schools than survivors of them. All quantitative data suggests our schools are broken and the instruction within them is, with only a few exceptions, lacking. Anecdotal data backs that up.

          American K-12 is failing. Most apologists for American education admit that, then fight their rear-guard action by blaming everyone but those who should be accountable. You might want to try that approach, because saying there isn’t a problem – like Hacker – just makes you sound like a crazy person to your audience.

          Perhaps your goal isn’t to convince anyone of anything, just to vent and express yourself. If that’s the case, you’re wasting your own and everyone else’s time.

          Your attempt to say this is a US vs. Asia thing is wrong. The truth is our K-12 education outcomes and system is craptastic compared to all the developed European nations, as well. In fact, Denmark and South Korea are practically tied for #1 and they have wildly different approaches, suggesting there is no one correct approach AND that ours is a failing of quality as much as anything else. We have bottom-half-intellect teachers admitted into teacher colleges with virtually no admission standards then I’ll-prepared to teach and not rated or mentored aggressively or fired for failing. What do you expect we’d end up with?

          Our universities are the envy of the world – and unnecessarily expensive. The problem isnt our universities. dont conflate our secondary and primary eduxation systems. The problem is how few kids are adequately prepared to even apply to university, let alone the high numbers who get in but need intense remedial learning to try to fill in the gaps in the knowledge and skills they were supposed to be taught in K-12.

          I’m glad you’re happy with our failing K-12 system. Your writing, spelling, and punctuation suggest you yourself are a prime example of the lowered expectations and standards many educational professionals have embraced.

          But in the world outside your echo chamber of American educational exceptionalism and thinly-veiled anti-Asian racism, ‘Tyranipocrit-good-enough’ just ain’t!

          • Tyranipocrit

            be more concise. And I’m sorry I have severe arthritis–would you like to rub my hands or type for me?

  • Sharpstix

    Columbia University has had a core curriculum since the 1st World War. Ain’t that bad.

  • Sharpstix

    Columbia University has had it’s Core Curriculum since the First World War. Ain’t that bad, guys.

    • Bruno_Andersen


      Entrenched interests afraid of accountability, however, view any attempt at standards, aspiring to excellence, and measurement of methods and outcomes as an attack and oppose it as if it’s waterboarding or non-consensual organ harvesting.

      This issue is impervious to logic.

  • GTV

    What is so terrible about “teaching to the test” if what the test is asking students to do is to read a fictional or non-fictional passage, answer factual and inferential questions that measure understanding, and then write a coherent, cogent response to an open-ended discussion question?  Do we not want all students to be able to perform these essential tasks of reading, writing, and critical thinking?

    Testing is not the problem anyway.  Neither is the curriculum nor the length of the school day, or whatever happens to be the “educational issue du jour.”  The problem is the quality of instruction, the teaching (Prof. Hacker’s claims to the contrary).  Exceptional teachers are hard to find: they are as rare as exceptional parents (who are, by the way, our first teachers).  Far too many public schools in the United States offer mediocre (at best) and sub-standard (at worst) educational experiences to their students.  The evidence is all around us.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      i think most teachers do a fine job and i have worked in some terrible schools. public education has been wrecked by these tests and the culture they breed

      • GTV

         If “most teachers do a fine job,” then I wonder why virtually every college/university in the country finds it necessary to offer remedial courses to the ill-prepared students who arrive on their campuses.  Or why so many products of our “fine” educational system seem not to have learned how to think critically.

        • krhenderson

          What evidence is there that instituting mandatory testing will improve instruction?  Isn’t that like saying putting people on scales every couple of months will “make them” lose weight?  Not to mention the invalidity of test scores with respect to other skills people need to survive in the world…

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            teaching to the test is very limiting and produces very few useful skills

          • GTV

            Tests, per se, are neither good nor bad. I think a lot depends upon test design, application, and the use of test results to uncover areas where a student needs some extra help.  Teachers have been using tests (their own and others) for as long as public (or private) education has existed.  I fear that it is becoming very fashionable, as well as easy and simplistic, to view testing as THE PROBLEM of education.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            i refer to standardised tests.  i worked as a teacher before and after NCLB and the tests are very disruptive. i have had a principal say in the first staff meeting “teach to the test” then when you try to teach the kids about character traits ( a standard on the test) and have the students make a project with the different traits of a character they picked as well as drawing a picture of the character then thats a problem because drawing pictures is not on the test. so then you just basically take test after test to practice for the test because the scope of what you may teach is so limited. also whenever they either reward or punish teachers or administrators for the test scores then the adults always cheat anyways. so whats the point?

          • GTV

             It sounds to me that your principal was an ineffective administrator.

            On the other hand, your project-based approach to instruction sounds good.  I don’t see why it wouldn’t be useful to kids preparing for a standardized test question.  Similarly, I’ve used graphic organizers to help kids structure essays that they are asked to write on standardized tests.  My point is that there are many means to the end of preparing kids for high-stakes testing.  Good teachers know how to squeeze the lemons of standardized testing to make thirst-quenching lemonade. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            yup she was horrible. i feel like she was more typical than not. i left up the  projects when the State showed up. the inspectors loved them and all the things i was told not to do that i did. that and my above average test scores made me a real pariah.  my trick was to actually teach the kids to read and write and give them a few test taking tricks. the best way to improve reading and writing is to do these things not be taught about how to do them.  funny how that and not all the baloney they come up with  works. a high achiever makes everyone else look bad.

          • GTV

            I don’t think anyone has said that mandatory testing will improve instruction.  All I said is that “teaching to the test” is not the evil it is made out to be–especially if the test is designed to measure how kids read, write, think.  Prior to standardized testing, there was virtually no accountability for what teachers taught (or didn’t) or what kids learned (or didn’t).  After the standards movement, teachers had to at least think about teaching basic skills. 

            I don’t get your analogy between testing kids and weighing them.  Perhaps you could clarify?

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

           the kids are stupid for many reasons, do you think tests will make them smarter?maybe the colleges should raise their standards of admission if they are not getting the students they want. i bet harvard does not have to remediate

          • GTV

             I don’t think kids are stupid.  Far from it.  I think the vast majority of kids are pretty smart, some in unique ways.  (And I base that on 40 years of teaching experience.)  What I am saying is that far too many students are not being taught well.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            if you are a teacher then you know that the biggest thing that will determine success of a student is the parent involvement.  i do think there are many flaws in the way we educate children now and there are plenty of lousy teachers. most do the best they can. no matter what you do 50% of people are going to be below average.there are so many problems with education these days its hard to point at one thing to fix or as a cause. it seems as though the tests are more of a distraction from an education than an enhancement to it. what are the benefits of standardised tests ?

          • GTV

             I do agree that parental involvement is key, but I’m not sure that it is the biggest determinant for a student’s success.

            As to benefits of standardized tests: they bring accountability to education, set high standards for all students, provide a valuable diagnostic tool, and offer strategies for teaching and learning while giving an index of best practices.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            thats what the test companies say anyways.
            more like they breed cheating every time the scores are linked to pay or employment for teachers or administrators.
            they set impossible  and irrelevent standards for many students. 
            as far as diagnostics its like checking the weather report vs looking out the window to see what the weather is.
            tests dont offer any strategies for anything.  the tests do not work in practice as they do in theory

      • Bruno_Andersen

        Yeah, American education was amazing before No Child Left Behind?

        Went to school in the 1980s and we were very minimally tested.

        I can count the excellent teachers I had in all 13 years on one hand. The poor teachers would require more digits than my body possesses.

        In many instances, we had to forage the library for our own lessons. I feel like I was able to achieve what I have in life largely IN SPITE OF most of my teachers.

        Our kids and our Marion’s current and future standard of living and economic and geopolitical security are far more important than the job security of any protected class of worker.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          “nail in the coffin” does not imply that things were peachy before. it was  ahuge unfunded mandate on an already weak system.  testing kids does not make teachers excellent and makes excellent teachers have to stop doing the things that make them excellent.  why would a test make teachers any better?

          • Bruno_Andersen

            It measures our relative excellence or ineptitude which has enabled us to quantify our failure and identify the lowest-performing teachers and institutions.

            This would be much more useful if our system allowed for us to fire poor performers, but even in the corrupt, non-meritocratic government employment scheme that US K-12 public education has become, that measurement is at least a start.

            It enables us to have a conversation about quality, standards, expectations and accountability. It forces us, at least, to publicly and transparently optimize our current system for uncritical job security and not for educational opportunities and outcomes for students.

            The fact that measurement remains so controversial while other countries – BETTER-educated countries – shrug and test and measure as a matter of course, while we hem and haw and criticize measurement and not our pitifully low rankings, highlights our priorities and our lack of seriousness and professional integrity.

            Shame on us.

            It’s quite unlikely education is the single human endeavor immune to quantified characterization, corrupted by observation like some sort of quantumn pehnomenon.

            Blame the obesity, not the scale!

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            bathroom scales are a great example. they tell you how much you weigh but what we really want to know is how fat we are.

          • Bruno_Andersen

            Sorry, I just assumed you had gotten the memo…


          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            i dont follow links what was it?

          • Bruno_Andersen

            State-of-the-art scale that tells people how fat they are.

            : )

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            yeah so what we need are better tests

  • Bill Schechter

    Love this show and always listen to it, but I am disappointed that Tom seems to conflate “high standards” with standardized tests. I beg to differ, though I am sure the testing industry (College Board included) would disagree with me. The experience in NY and Massachusetts is that the tail ends up wagging the dog. That is the assessment instrument ends up defining the curriculum it is supposed to measure. It also redefines and narrows what we understand by “education.” Of course all students deserve high standards, but how can this issue even be discussed without reference to the widening gap between rich and poor, and all that implies for how kids perform in school. Schools are supposed to level a playing field that is becoming ever more tilted? I’d say that is a society-wide responsibility. Here is an idea: check out public schools that are successful and have had high standards long before this ersatz  “ed reform” testing craze. What do these school do to be successful? Isn’t it common sense to find out? I know we would learn a lot because I taught in just such a high school for 35 years. (And how about some teachers on the panel? We have been excluded from the “national debate. We actually might know something). 

  • Sharpstix

    Can we also recognize that Professor Hacker advocates removing mathematics from public schools? Wrote a whole book on it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    no child left behind and all its tests and standards were the nail in the coffin for public education

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    this is all a moot point any ways as we transition to online education and the end of teachers and schools as we know them.

    • Bruno_Andersen

      Yay for the de-industrialization of American education.

      The Khan Academy, alone, will do more good than every half-hearted, phony concession to quantified excellence teachers-union leaders like Randi Weingarten make.

      (But at least she reluctantly acknowledges there’s a problem!)

      Smart people, disrupt, disrupt, disrupt!

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        the teachers unions will be obsolete in a few years we can fire them all. the low price for online education and tight budgets will make closing the schools an easy decision

        • Bruno_Andersen

          I hope you’re wrong about that.

          I think in-person, human interaction is crucial in the education of our children. I just don’t think we’ll need those teachers to do the lip-synced one-size-fits-all pantomime [lecturing] they currently do.

          I really think the Khan Academy model is a likely way forward, where micro-lessons are delivered digitally and at the students’ individualized paces, and the physically-present teachers are freed up to circulate and help kids who are stuck or just curious with one-on-one or small-group instruction and clarification. This results in personalized lessons and much deeper learning, and kids aren’t dragged along at the pace of classroom-sized, top-down lectures what leave the slower kids behind to fail.

          Several school districts are already using the approach to largely positive impact.

          Our kids deserve better. Our society deserves better. Teachers deserve better.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            what we have now are situations where each student is at a computer that tailors their lessons to them. the teacher is basically crowd control, tasked with keeping the kids from bothering each other. why bother maintaining a building and paying union workers, paying for busses, janitors and everything else when the student can sit at home and do the  same thing without fear of distraction from other students? at the end of the day it will be much cheaper and better to go online 100%
            you think in-person human interaction is needed because you are a product of the old paradigm. todays kids and parents don’t have those same notions.

          • Bruno_Andersen

            I disagree.

            You need one-on-one interaction with a teacher because kids will invariably encounter something that stumps them. The teacher then goes over to them and digs deeper into the material, working with them to get ahold of the concepts.

            Now, I suppose that could be done over something like Skype, but I believe it should be in person because everyone – including kids – need in-person, one-on-one as well as in-person group socialization.

            Besides, recess and gym class and team sports are way more fun in-person, with others!

            Careers and life in the world pivots on face-to-face, physical interactions. Having kids telecommute to school would result in a nation of creepy home-schooled weirdos.

            Perhaps virtual telepresence tech will at sometime make that more of an option, but even then I’d vote against it. There’s schloads of human development research that demonstrates the need for in-person interaction.

            And there’s nothing that says teachers need to be unionized or protected from evaluation or rewarded entirely based on seniority. You’re unfairly coupling the classroom format with the workforce profile. That’s on you.

            I know kids now that have opted to finish their high school education exclusively online. I’m confident studies will show it does not provide for adequate socialization.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            children are perfectly capable of learning without adult guidence. did you hear the story on npr about the person in india or pakistan who left computers for children in poor areas and the children became as proficient in their use as trained office workers in 6 months? not only that but they had to teach themselves english in order to do so and they did not even have keyboards! 
            anyways whether its the best thing or not will be less important than how much money it can save and how well it can do at preparing kids to take multiple choice tests

          • Bruno_Andersen

            All things in moderation.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            if you have been teaching for a while you will have a great pension when the machines take over.

  • AnnieCD

    Your comment is something that no one ever talks about.    The Asian countries excel in standardized testing because of rote learning, which was tossed out several decades ago in the US.  In addition, we also teach all children, regardless of ability.  This happens in no other country that I know of.  

    • Ampoint

       We did have rote learning, but we also had music and art in elementary grades. In middle and high school we had home economics class, shop/carpentry & shop/automotive, along with music and art class as required electives. PE/athletics was required of everyone (regardless of ability:-)  I can’t tell you haw many stories I’ve heard in my lifetime of an individual struggling in school when art/ music /shop/ athletics/something was the catalyst they needed to finally connect all the dots, or neurons as it were. There was something about this total package that was very beneficial to how children learn differently, yet the same. There was always time to save a student and there always seemed to be late-bloomers who did a complete 360 turnaround and went off to be very successful. No Child Left Behind might as well mean– We Won’t Wait For You.


  • Let_x_equal

    Everybody is talking like there was one set of common core state standards, but really there is 2. 
    The CCSS in English are clear, concise, measurable and actually delineate the skills students will need in reading and writing. 
    The CCSS standards in math are an absolute mess.  They are always presented as “fewer things taught in more depth” but in reality the high school math standards have many more things thus allowing less depth.  The math standards are also vague and many of them are unmeasurable.  It is no accident that whenever anyone wants to show how good the standards are they cite an English standard, and when they want to show how bad they are the cite a math standard.

  • Bruno_Andersen

    Your backward-facing vision of our teacher-union-delivered American Exceptionalism is charming, but you’re not taking into account things like our shortage of qualified STEM workers, or the fall of American manufacturing.

    Oh, and by the way, the Germans invented the automobile and, depending on your definition, the Brits likely invented computers.

    The Chinese are still catching up. Their generations of super-students are just entering the workforce now – and many American research organizations are addicted to them.

  • Bruno_Andersen

    American education is failing.

    Listening to Hacker defend – nay, CELEBRATE – our current K-12 teaching standards, curricula, student performance, and teacher performance was the strangest thing I’ve experienced in a while.

    Most apologists and union stooges at least acknowledge the sorry state of affairs (before blaming everyone but teachers – the students, their parents, testing, the media, society, junk food, low pay – and saying it’s impossible to measure something like teacher performance.)

    As someone who grew up in a shack, I sure hope he is ignored during this national debate.

    We can’t create enough qualified STEM workers to staff our economy and our youth are not globally competitive. Why is the workforce in our most strategic industry – education – the least competitive and the least accountable?

    We suffer from the racism of lowered expectations for our students, and the civilizational treason and self-destruction of lowered expectations for our educators, and those two sins, in unison, will degrade our nation until it is almost unrecognizable and no place anyone alive today will wish to inhabit.

    At least Obama and other moderate progressives have the courage to fight – against bullies within our own party – for what’s right and what’s fair to Scarsdale children, and those bothersome children who hail from shacks.

  • care1112

    I’m a teacher in Memphis City Schools. I teach in the most diverse middle school in the state of Tennessee.  Our district constantly struggles with rigor and funding. Our school has over 90% free and reduced lunch. Only 4% of our graduating seniors in MCS graduate college ready, this is not including the dropped-out students.  The public schools in Memphis are not getting the job done.  We are already teaching to the state test (TCAP), as our pay is based on this test.  Also, the standards in Tennessee are so low that many times the current TCAP test questions are poorly worded that a group of college graduates with English degrees cannot find the correct answer to an vaguely worded English question. Even if the student passes this test, they are still not on track for college, because our standards are so low.
    The Common Core standards are so badly needed in our region.  4% college ready is not acceptable for the city.

  • Bruno_Andersen

    On one count, Hack(er) is spot-on:

    My self-esteem in high school would have greatly benefitted from mathematics being stricken from the curriculum and from the abolishment of grading and rankings.

    However, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the life I do now.

    I hope disadvantaged youth bound to his institution are warned and avoid his classroom!

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.wozniak.12 Susan Wozniak

    Supposedly, 30% of our college students take remedial classes.  What does that mean?  Does that mean that our high schools are not adequately preparing students for college or does it mean that too many people are attending college?  I think it might be a little bit of both.

    However, there is something which surfaced in this piece which may be the key to the poor preparation of today’s students.  I believe Andrew Hacker said it: that this so-called Common Core  was not produced by the National Conference of Governors (?) but by two academic publishers.  As I heard this piece this morning, I am not certain whether one was McGrawHill or Macmillan but the other was Pearson.

    The mania for standardized testing was created by for profit publishers.  It did not come from parents.  It did not come from the decried teachers’ unions.  It did not come from administrators.

    Standardized testing is the brainchild of these huge conglomerates of the publishing world.  Standardized testing is a for profit venture which has nothing to do with educational standards, leveling the playing field for disadvantaged kids, competing with China or any other flimsy excuse offered.  Standardized testing exists to line the pockets of the executives of these companies.

    Have you ever seen a so-called college level expository writing text?  Visit a community college English 101 class where students are told this class represents the transition between high school and college; this is the class where you will be taught critical thinking.  Stop by a student’s desk.  Ask if you can look into his text book.  You will find pages and pages of text are — for lack of a better word — prehighlighted.

    That’s right!  All the important sentences are highlighted in gaudy colors.  The books are almost impossible to read because of their purpled paragraphs and green blocks full of allegedly important points.  

    How can a student learn critical thinking if his text book tells him what is important in an essay or a set of directions? Doesn’t critical thinking mean that the student reads the piece and decides for himself what is important?

    I teach at the college level. I never order such texts.  To give a student that sort of book is to handicap them.

    Let’s return to the remedial or developmental student, the type of student I mentioned at the beginning of my piece.  How many books has this student read?  If he read four books in high school, then that school had a high standard.

    There are school systems which have eliminated the reading of literature.  No novels.  No plays.  No poems.  Ask those students what a sentence is about.  They can’t tell you.  They can sometimes find the subject but they have extreme difficulties in finding the predicate.  

    The situation will only become worse.  Literacy is the price of standardized testing.  

    Standardized testing is expensive in terms of teacher hours.  It is expensive in terms of student achievement.  It is a waste of taxpayer money.  However, standardized testing does profit the  so-called educational publishers.

    What is the solution?  Less testing.  The SAT does everything these tests are meant to do.  We need nothing else.

    Bring back sentence diagramming in the third grade.  Bring back novels and plays and poems.  Bring back recess.

    • Roy-in-Boise

      Yes, you heard it right on the textbook publishers. Two publishers for everything is not healthy. The same pictures and graphs turn up in different books all the time. The originality and diversity of content is slowly homogenizing.

  • Bruno_Andersen

    Um, Andy, instead of using the term “failing states”, you should consider substituting it with the terms “failing students” and “failing parents.”

    To call states “failing” wound be slanderous because in those states reside schools and teachers, and we know they never fail.

    • Andy

      Lol…nice piece of satire.

      I love the subtle re-direction of blame away from states that can not successfully support education in all their communities successfully. Love the joke about schools and teachers never failing. Great to know they are all 100% fabulous.

      Great twist in “slandering” those failing schools and teachers by saying they “all” do a great job. I hope those dreadful ones don’t take your supportive words the wrong way.

      • Bruno_Andersen

        : )


        I was doing my best to channel Andrew “Best of All Possible Worlds” Hacker.

        He had the air of a climate-change denier. It’s breathtaking!

        Elevated education standards as high sadism. Good to know.

  • Tyranipocrit

    Asian kids commit suicide at terrifying rates–mostly due to the pressure of exams.   You cant judge some ones value on an exam–but thats what standardized education does.  Your life depends on a f-ing exam–everything that follows.  how inhumane.  how cruel.  how stupid.

  • Tyranipocrit

    This is not just to sell BS computers but also to create a exam-book and training school industry as you see in Asia.  Once this happens there is no way out because the exam industry is bog oil.  In China–bookstores are full of exam books–nothing more.  And that’s ALL students care about–because they must pas the exam or else.  So no you get countless exam training private schools–teaching to the exams and banking it!  While the less-privileged cant afford the outrageous cost of these exam schools–which by the way are on the NYSE.

    That is whats happening here.  This is the agenda.  REVOLT!

  • Tyranipocrit

    Classrooms should have computers–but for the teacher with state of the art audio-visual equipment–rather than chalkboards.  Big screens.   Visual aides are necessary but not everything.  Students with mobile devices or computers in front of them will be easily distracted.  Send homework and reading to personal devices but ban them in the classroom.  Provide personal online accounts for each student accessed in a library as in university–teachers send everything to account and printers and scanners in libraries allow students to print out resources if needed. 

    Ban personal devices in schools–including cell phones.  Take students out of the classroom and into the real world. 

    If you want to improve edu get them out of the classroom and into interactive environments.  Biology and ecology in school-greenhouses.  Outdoor classrooms.  Geometry in real world environments–instead of problems on a board, get them measuring quads and triangles and buildings and architecture and bridges as they are used in the real world, with community help–interactive programs with local businesses. 

    Poetry and literature at poetry slams and coffee houses and concerts and plays.  Take them to readings by famous authors–especially children’s authors–and the writer sells books–win-win.  We need to get out of classrooms and gimmicks.

  • Isernia

    Back then, higher education was based on merit with poor kids who came from homes where parents respected education got a chance to learn through low cost public colleges or private university scholarships.  Social class mobility that thus resulted is no more, time on task has been reduced through overuse of electronic media and computer games and the gap between the very rich and the poor with a declining middle class is widening.  Better to compare us educationally with the Scandinavian countries and northern Europe than with China or Korea whose social cultural structures are so different from ours.

    • Ampoint

       China has different social & political structures. How can we compare to a country who allows only one child maybe two to a couple ? A child who will inherit the sole financial burden of supporting his aging parents.

      I believe (we should all believe), social class mobility is still attainable. It does seem to become more difficult as every year goes by; although, we must never become complacent in our pursuit of higher education as a means to an end. If we do not believe that…our society will crumble.   

  • GTV

    It sounds to me that the principal you cite was a jerk.

    Your project-based approach to instruction sounds good.  I don’t see why it wouldn’t be useful to kids preparing for a standardized test question.  Similarly, I use graphic organizers to help kids structure essays that they are asked to write on standardized tests.  There are many means to the end of preparing kids for high-stakes testing, no?

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      yes she was
      one would think so but in practice these things happen

  • GTV

    The comment below is part of a response I made to an earlier comment by Futo Buddy.  I don’t know how it wound up here.  Please disregard it. Thanks.

  • MaryAnnFend

    A big fan, I do have two bones to pick with you about this show. (1) Your setup didn’t step back far enough for your audience to put the Common Core in context. (2) You were not prepared well enough to catch Hacker’s many misleading comments and correct them immediately.

    The context (in part): standards, curriculum, and assessment must be coordinated and aligned. Two of three is not enough.
    • The state (or feds) determine what kids should know and be able to do, teachers choose what content and methods to teach that knowledge and those skills, and a standardized test evaluates whether students met the standards.
    • Standards are not lock-step or “scripted” education. They are general concepts — “recognize how authors create mood in a story” — that are aligned within the school year and build on each other from year to year, kindergarten-grade 12.
    • High standards and good tests are not “too hard.” Look at both on Massachusetts’s MCAS website. Really good stuff. Even the multiple-choice questions make one think.
    • “Standardized” is not a four-letter word. It just means the same test is given under the same conditions to similar groups of students so results can be compared.

    And the data! So much good information of what each student has mastered, what groups of students are struggling with, where a teacher may need extra support, where a school or district has some instructional gaps. Invaluable and essential for continuous improvement.

    Change is hard. And scary. But this is clearly the way to go. Anything short is just more excuse for mediocrity.

  • Regular_Listener

    Pardon my cynicism but I have experience in education and I have seen several pushes for higher standards and new kinds of  evaluations, etc.  Calling for it is one thing, but making it happen (with shrinking budgets and an increasing percentage of low-achieving students) is something else.  Politicians and bureaucrats love to trumpet this sort of thing, to go on about our failing schools, but they’re not the ones who are expected to make the dramatic changes happen.

Sep 16, 2014
Jasmin Torres helps classmate Brianna Rameles with a worksheet at the Diloreto Magnet School in New Britain, Conn., Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012. (AP/Charles Krupa)

More parents are “red-shirting” their children in kindergarten—holding them back for a year, hoping they’ll have an edge. Does it work? We look.

Sep 16, 2014
From "Rich Hill"

“Rich Hill,” a new documentary on growing up poor, now, in rural America. The dreams and the desperation.

Sep 15, 2014
This Monday, Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. (AP/Carson Walker)

Uproar over development plans for the Grand Canyon. We go to the Navajo Nation and the Canyon floor to see what’s at stake.

Sep 15, 2014
In this Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 photo, Middle Eastern leaders stand together during a family photo with of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional partners at King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

President Obama says he will build a coalition of partners in the Middle East to combat ISIS. We’ll do a reality check on who’s really stepping up for what.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: September 12, 2014
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

In which you had varied reactions to the prospect of a robotic spouse.

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Beverly Gooden on #WhyIStayed
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

Beverly Gooden — who originated the #WhyIStayed hashtag that has taken off across Twitter — joined us today for our discussion on domestic violence.

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Tierney Sutton Plays LIVE For On Point
Friday, Sep 5, 2014

We break out Tierney Sutton’s three beautiful live tracks from our broadcast today for your listening pleasure.

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