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Sunday Commentary

It is easier to fool someone than to convince them they have been fooled.
                                                           - Mark Twain

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The Sunday Journal, 3/26/2023
Continued from our

Common Core vs. Common Sense

Craft and Structure has to do with how a story is presented; students must “describe the overall structure of a story, including how the beginning introduces the story and how the ending concludes the action.”   They must also analyze differing points of view of the characters, including how dialogue, dialect, and word choices affect these.  

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas means how students are processing the information they learn.  This is tricky to assess because it requires us to look for evidence of how someone’s mind works. One way is to ask students to compare and contrast texts, a fairly high-level skill.  Second graders must be able to do this for different versions of the same story, such as Cinderella stories written by different authors or shared from different cultures.    

So far, what we can see from Common Core is that young children are required to analyze the abstract nature of literature.  Is every second grader capable of thinking abstractly?  Perhaps.  But not every second grader will be able to do it independently, which means a lot of adult interaction is required.

Under Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, second graders should be able to “read (independently) and comprehend stories and poetry in the 2-3 text complexity band proficiently.”  2-3 means second and third grade.  So Common Core, itself, advocates giving all students advanced reading material, with “scaffolding [help] as needed at the high end of the range.”  

What does a typical Common Core text for second grade look like?  Here’s an example from the Spectrum series of workbooks, a popular choice of supplemental material that a lot of teachers use:

2nd gr story...Spectrum.png

Look at the word choices (nervous, excellent, worried) and the sentence structure (…he almost poured milk into his orange juice instead of into his cereal bowl).  Notice the figurative language (others look light, as if they are hanging in the air;  tons of great bridge ideas).  This is second grade material in its brevity only. Everything else about it screams advanced:  advanced word choices, advanced sentences, advanced language concept.  Is it wrong to require this of students?  That depends on the level of importance we place on skill acquisition and how we handle non-acquisition.  We’ll get back to that later.

College and Career Readiness:  what does that mean?  According to the State Standards Initiative, it means graduates of a K-12 program can do the following:

•    Demonstrate independence,
•    Build strong content knowledge,
•    Respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline,
•    Comprehend as well as critique,
•    Value evidence,
•    Use technology and digital media strategically and capably,
•    Come to understand perspectives and cultures.

The theory is that when we establish the need for these concepts early (such as in second grade), students will continue to respond earnestly to the expectation to work hard, learn deeply, and achieve mastery.
But does this actually happen?  


Common Core has been the adopted curriculum in many states for nearly a decade, and their state assessments have been written to assess this advanced material.  This means that only a student displaying advanced achievement will pass Colorado’s Measures of Academic Success (CMAS).  When the public sees the statistic that only 40% of third graders passed the CMAS reading test in 2022, they are likely to assume that third graders just cannot read well.  But is that really the case?   When a typical question on that test looks like this, I'm not so sure:

released 3rd gr reading item.png

Is "plunging" really a third grade vocabulary term?  A lot of credit is given for figuring out words in context, but if a student does not get Part A correct, what hope does he have for Part B?   

(Even prior to COVID, the results of CMAS were not reassuring:  41% of third graders passed the reading test in 2019.)

According to this table, third graders will be put through four and a half hours of testing this spring to determine their reading ability.   

Testing times CMAS.png

Success depends on how much the child is able or willing to focus on his computer screen for the duration of the test.  He is not able to ask the adult monitoring him any questions, including how to navigate the test.  In high contrast, he has been able to ask questions about anything during his classroom instruction, and often, bounce ideas off a group of learners.  The only way a child is going to fare well in a solo testing environment like this is if he possesses a high degree of confidence and perseverance, in addition to the level of skill necessary.

And now we come full circle. What is wrong with instituting advanced standards?  Well, there are no repercussions for students if they miss the mark.  So now we're going to raise the bar on concept acquisition without offering incentive to work even harder than before?  

It’s a funny thing.  Not funny in the humorous sense; funny in the “this doesn’t make

any sense” sense. Why are we requiring students to learn faster and deeper without

holding them accountable for their learning? 

Who is going to give his best on a test that takes multiple sessions of arduous solo work?  No
adult I know would do that without a substantial incentive, such as advancement in salary or career.  But we’re asking elementary students to do it.  

If a child knows his results will determine his class placement, he might be more motivated to give his best. And even if he isn’t, that alone helps educators determine the best learning environment for him.

Therein lies the crux of the matter.  It is impossible to adequately address learning standards without also addressing testing, which leads to how we handle testing outcomes and if that affects how we place children in classrooms, which then leads to who is teaching what and which students, which also brings up class size and adult to child ratio….

Chaos reigns in our schools because certain elements of success are not up for discussion.  By instituting advanced standards while ignoring everything else about learning, the most significant outcome of Common Core is a high degree of frustration...  

...for everyone except the power structure, which seems to enjoy its position of instituting mandates without the inconvenience of dealing with them personally or analyzing them realistically.

There’s something very wrong with this picture.

Read our other Sunday Journal posts here.

The Bottom Line

Continued from our HOME page:

From the new book
Chaos in Our Schools

There’s an insidious element in education that is unnoticed by most people. Schools are not set up for the children; they are set up for
the convenience of the adults who run them

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     This comes from the penultimate (2nd to last) chapter in our book, Chaos in Our Schools.  The entire book leads up to this chapter, which proposes the conclusion that kids cannot be the primary focus of schools any longer...not when their needs are placed in a subordinate position to the "needs" (read: DESIRES) of the adults who work with them.

     How can this be?  And what is the basis for this conclusion?  Reading the book will answer these questions, but here is a little more from that chapter:

Our schools, particularly at the elementary level, are operated with the guiding principles that

1)     Procedures and standards, copiously outlined, meet the education needs of students,


2)     Children should be arranged in groupings that are acceptable to the adults in charge.


This is nonsense, but at present, there is little that can be done to thwart these ideals because the teachers’ unions won’t allow for a sensible approach to education.


And, it is because of these two principles that a third principle also exists:

3)     Those who work with children must be regulated, lectured, and gaslighted by those who don’t.


Politicians and administrators had been stymied for years in their quest to get around the teachers’ unions, who set and control how teachers and students are assigned within schools.  Perhaps they thought their legislation would mitigate this. But instead of making the situation better, they have made it worse.  This is what happens when you try to put a Band-Aid on a cannonball wound.

The problems in education are shared and exacerbated by both sides of the coin: the teaching staff and the administration who supervise them.  It is an adversarial relationship that gets more contentious and (ironically) more euphemized every year.  The Edu-speak that guides every educator’s career (and I include administrators in that mix) has become the most important aspect of the game.  If one can manipulate these phrases and standards effectively, one will achieve success.  (Not for the kids, of course, but for oneself.)

Teachers work very hard to curry favor with the administrator who gives them their ratings.  Only a foolish person would not come to understand very clearly how human nature works in these situations.  Butter someone up and he is likely to reward you for that.

I’m sure the intent of SB 10-191 was to cause teachers to want to reflect on their practice of teaching and to grow from that reflection.  I have doubts that that happens in any meaningful way for most teachers, however.  There are not enough hours in the day or week to teach effectively and also keep up with requirements to prove you are teaching effectively, or that you are metacognitively evaluating yourself.  Unfortunately for the Colorado legislature, instead of rewarding quality teaching in Colorado, they have instituted a system of  rewarding the appearance of quality teaching.

Getting rid of this phoniness is necessary before our education woes can seriously be addressed.

The elites don’t want things to change, probably because they enjoy the money that follows programs and policies, as well as the accolades for a job well done.

Those who are not affected themselves by onerous requirements

are more likely to impose those requirements on others. 

This has been the case in school management for decades.

This has been an abridged glimpse of the chapter
in our book called "The Bottom LIne". 
For a glimpse at the rest of the chapters,

Then click the link to purchase this
game-changing book on Amazon.

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