David Coleman’s College Ready Corps

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,

but in the expert’s there are few 

~ Shunryu Suzuki

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Hard to imagine an applicant for a teaching job explaining to the panel of educators interviewing him/her that he really doesn’t give a shit what his students or their parents think or feel…or joking about the fact that she really isn’t qualified to teach the position she is applying for.

Yet the chief architect of the Common Core which was initially adopted and implemented by 45 states explained at a teacher conference in 2011,

forgive me for saying this so bluntly, is, as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Coleman admitted during another speech in 2011, 

Student Achievement Partners, all you need to know about us are a couple things. One is we’re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards…

And now let’s get to what do we mean tonight about what you should be doing over the next two years regarding the standards. Let’s start with math and then do literacy. I’ll probably spend a little more time on literacy because as weak as my qualifications are there, in math they’re even more desperate in their lacking.

Even more troubling than Coleman’s lack of classroom experience and lack of respect for diverse learners and thinkers, is the fact that the Common Core demands students learn primarily from informational text, yet its supporters ignore countless informational texts (like the excerpt below) which reveal that the Common Core college prep program will not “ensure” career readiness for ALL students.

Dakota Blazier had made a big decision. Friendly and fresh-faced, from a small town north of Indianapolis, he’d made up his mind: He wasn’t going to college.

“I discovered a long time ago,” he explained, “I’m not book smart. I don’t like sitting still, and I learn better when the problem is practical.” But he didn’t feel this limited his options—to the contrary. And he was executing a plan as purposeful as that of any of his high-school peers…

College-educated Americans tend to know mostly other college-educated Americans and to think that is the norm, if not universal. In fact, just three in 10 Americans age 25 or older have bachelor’s degrees. Another 8% are high-school dropouts, leaving the overwhelming majority—more than 60%—in circumstances something like Mr. Blazier’s…

Americans have a host of postsecondary options other than a four-year degree—associate degrees, occupational certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeships. Many economists are bullish about the prospects of what they call “middle-skilled” workers. In coming years, according to some, at least a third and perhaps closer to half of all U.S. jobs will require more than high school but less than four years of college—and most will involve some sort of technical or practical training…

As Mr. Blazier knows, there are plenty of opportunities for people like him to get ahead. Despite our digital-age prejudices against practical skills, Americans are quietly reinventing upward mobility.

This is especially true in a trade like welding, where demand can sometimes seem insatiable. The average age in the field is 54, and the American Welding Institute predicts openings for more than 400,000 workers by 2024—welders and others who need welding skills, such as pipe fitters, plumbers and boilermakers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the average wage at $36,300 a year, but anecdotal evidence suggests that is the low end of what’s possible. JV Industrial says that it pays more like $75,000, with some employees earning more than $100,000. In the burgeoning shale industry, in Texas and Appalachia, welders can earn as much as $7,000 a week.

Like construction, nursing is a time-tested path to the middle class, and it has many of the same hallmarks: easy on-ramps, goal-oriented job training and a series of ascending steps, with industry-certified credentials to guide the way.

The profession is already growing robustly. From 2000 to 2010, the number of registered nurses increased by 24%. But the aging of the baby-boom generation will sharpen demand even as it reduces supply: Roughly a third of today’s nurses are more than 50 years old….

Today’s conventional wisdom about economic mobility in the U.S. is gloomy and growing gloomier. We’re told that good jobs are disappearing, that less educated workers have bad work habits, that the U.S. is falling behind other countries.

What’s strange is that this isn’t what you hear from many people who are working toward the middle class: people training, saving and in other ways striving to make it, who invariably see more dynamism and possibility…

Who’s right? Surely, the answer is up to us—and not just the strivers alone. One place to start would be by showing some respect for practical training. As millions of Americans know, even in a knowledge economy, countless valuable career skills can be learned outside a college classroom.

Tamar Jacoby, “This Way Up: Mobility in America” The Wall Street Journal 7/18/14

The Common Core ELA Standards with their emphasis on Close Reading of complex informational text do not address the work-based literacy needs of countless careers including welders and nurses who need to Read With Understanding

Imagine an ICU nurse responding to a doctor, when asked about the status of a critically ill patient…

Well, I’m not really sure if the patient is better or worse since I did not review yesterday’s chart as that would be providing context and using prior knowledge to help me understand his current condition, and I haven’t yet administered his medicine because I am still dissecting and deconstructing the craft and structure of your orders.

Seems to me the education and political leaders who have spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars implementing and assessing the Common Core boondoggle, should re-evaluate their own decision-making and critical thinking skills before they try to improve the skills of K-12 students.

 

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Data-Driven Common Core Does Not Compute

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More and more it feels like the education leaders who are tasked with overseeing the data-driven Common Core implementation and assessment policies are “Lost in Space” and their data “does not compute”.

During the school year 100% of teachers are expected to “unpack” the standards, differentiate instruction, use collaborative protocols, individualized “scaffolding”, while providing extra time and “space” to support diverse learners possessing a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

However, at the end of the year, virtually 100% of the students and teachers will be evaluated by a timed standardized test that measures a small fraction of the standards and many special education students will take all or part of the test with 0% of their accommodations..

“Out of the 83 combinations of Common Core Standards (ELA 3rd), NYS chose to test only 15% of them. This leaves teachers, administrators, parents, students and colleges/careers wondering if these 15% can truly be the measure of college/career readiness…”

Lace To The Top: “NYS Common Core Test Fails Itself” 11/11/13

Many states are planning to use PARCC Assessments to measure and predict the college and career readiness of students even though the creators of the test have acknowledged that it will assess 0% of essential college and career readiness soft skills…

“A comprehensive determination of college and career readiness that would include additional factors such as these [persistence, motivation, and time management] is beyond the scope of the PARCC assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics…”

(pgs 2-3) College- and Career-Ready Determination Policy and Policy-Level PLDs ( Adopted October 2012; Updated March 2013 ) (PDF)

Many Common Core supporters also claim that student scores on these tests can accurately and reliably measure as much as 50% of a teacher’s effectiveness, even though there is 0% evidence to support these claims.

In fact, The American Statistical Association (ASA) recently released an ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment which reported…

“Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality. (2)…

A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. (6)…

The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences. (7)…”

Robert D. Skeels, “American Statistical Association has just released a very important document on Value Added Methodologies” 4/9/14

In order to prove their effectiveness and earn “points” towards the remaining  50 – 60% of their evaluation, teachers are required to provide evidence of research based strategies and practices they use in the classroom to implement the Common Core Standards while there is 0% research and evidence proving effectiveness of the standards.

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Barriers To Learning

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Inside the classroom, the teacher has the greatest impact on student performance. It is also true that parents are the most influential teacher in a child’s life, and learning that doesn’t occur outside the classroom can have a much greater impact on student achievement, than what transpires inside the classroom…

“Decades of research have shown the staggering societal costs of children in poverty. They grow up with less education and lower earning power. They are more likely to have drug addiction, psychological trauma and disease, or wind up in prison… 

Dasani’s circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction. While nearly one-third of New York’s homeless children are supported by a working adult, her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction….

For children like Dasani, school is not just a place to cultivate a hungry mind. It is a refuge. The right school can provide routine, nourishment and the guiding hand of responsible adults…

To eat, the children sit on the cracked linoleum floor, which never feels clean no matter how much they mop. Homework is a challenge. The shelter’s one recreation room can hardly accommodate Auburn’s hundreds of children, leaving Dasani and her siblings to study, hunched over, on their mattresses… 

The projects may represent all kinds of inertia. But to live at Auburn is to admit the ultimate failure: the inability of one’s parents to meet that most basic need… 

For all of McKinney’s pluck, its burdens are great. In the last six years, the city has cut the school’s budget by a quarter as its population declined. Fewer teachers share a greater load. After-school resources have thinned, but not the needs of students whose families are torn apart by gun violence and drug use. McKinney’s staff psychologist shuttles between three schools like a firefighter. 

And now, a charter school is angling to move in. If successful, it will eventually claim McKinney’s treasured top floor, home to its theater class, dance studio and art lab. Teachers and parents are bracing for battle, announced by fliers warning against the “apartheid” effects of a charter co-location. 

Dasani knows about charter schools. Her former school, P.S. 67, shared space with one. She never spoke to those children, whose classrooms were stocked with new computers. Dasani’s own school was failing by the time she left… 

Miss Holmes has seen plenty of distressed children, but few have both the depth of Dasani’s troubles and the height of her promise. There is not much Miss Holmes can do about life outside school. She knows this is a child who needs a sponsor, who “needs to see ‘The Nutcracker,’” who needs her own computer. There are many such children.

Here at school, Miss Holmes must work with what she has…”

Andrea Elliott, “Invisible Child – Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life” NY Times, 12/9/13

Poorer communities and schools would see a much greater academic return on their “investments” if instead of purchasing new computers, software solutions, and standardized tests, they properly funded programs such as; prenatal care, child care, adult ed, parenting classes, job coaching, drug counseling, health services, morning programs, and after school programs that provide meals, tutoring, arts and crafts, physical activity, and a quiet place to study.

It is naive to expect that students who have weaker academic skills, greater social and emotional needs, and attend chronically underfunded schools will start to achieve more in the classroom, simply because their state has adopted the Common Core State Standards, their schools have purchased computers to administer mandated standardized tests, and their teachers have received high quality Common Core professional development.

There is more likely to be an increase in the achievement gap and school drop out rates, rather than an increase in college and career readiness, if we continue to place greater academic demands on students with greater needs, without providing sufficient school funding to support essential wrap around services.

 

Hard Skills Are Soft Skills Dependent

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

~ Daniel Goleman 

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K-12 education programs should focus much more instructional time on helping students acquire and practice soft skills, if they expect them to master and apply hard skills in appropriate and effective ways.

The Common Core ELA standards demand that students provide evidence to support their claims yet the authors of the Standards seem to disregard decades of research and data regarding the importance of emotional intelligence.

In fact, David Coleman, the chief architect and lead author of the Common Core has made it very clear where he stands on this issue;

As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a sh#@ about what you feel or what you think.

The authors of the Common Core continue to maintain that the Standards, which emphasize a narrow set of testable hard skills, will properly prepare our students for the social and emotional challenges of college and careers, despite countless surveys and interviews regarding the critical importance of soft skills…

Do people underperform at your company because they lack these soft skills or do they disappoint because their technical skills aren’t up to snuff?

‘Soft skills are almost always to blame — that’s why we need to get better at measuring them.’

Do your best managers have the strongest technical skills in the company? Or do they excel on the soft side?

‘Soft skills set our best managers apart.’

Is it possible you have excluded some candidates with extraordinary soft skills because they didn’t meet your company’s benchmark for technical brilliance? These are the people who would have become your best managers.

My client refused to answer this question, but the look in his eye was a definite “Oops!…

Lou Adler, “Soft Skills Are Hard to Assess. And Even Harder to Succeed Without.” 3/8/14

In a new study in partnership with American Express (AXP), we found that over 60 percent of managers agree that soft skills are the most important when evaluating an employee’s performance, followed by 32 percent citing hard skills and only 7 percent social media skills. When breaking down which soft skills were most important, managers chose the ability to prioritize work, having a positive attitude, and teamwork skills as their top three requirements for management roles…

Soft skills can’t easily be learned, they need to be developed over time. The big challenge for millennial workers is that they have weaker soft skills than older generations, who expect face-time and teamwork from them. Millennials have spent too much time with their collective noses buried in their iPhones and Facebook pages…

Dan Schwabel, “The Soft Skills Managers Want” 9/4/13

One of my first conversations was with Clay Parker, president of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards—a company that, among other things, makes machines and supplies chemicals for the manufacture of microelectronics devices. He’s an engineer by training and the head of a technical business, so when I asked him about the skills he looks for when he hires young people, I was taken aback by his answer.

“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

“What other skills are you looking for?” I asked, expecting that he’d jump quickly to content expertise.

“I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers—to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know…

Tony Wagner, “Rigor Redefined” ASCD Educational Leadership October, 2008

A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list…

Martha C. White, “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired “ 11/10/13

Common Core emphasis on a narrow and shallow set of measurable and testable hard skills rather than cultivating transferable and work-based soft skills means our students will be as well prepared for the real “tests” of college and careers as a contractor with a “fully loaded” tool belt who lacks the confidence, courage, and experience to climb a ladder.

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Stress Impacts Student Performance

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Decades of research and studies have documented the impact of stress on cognitive performance such as critical thinking, judgment, and decision-making skills.

The ability to concentrate, follow directions, process new information, and make good decisions are all greatly diminished and impaired by stress.

The high level of stress induced by the high stakes consequences of standardized tests has in effect “poisoned the assessment well” and directly undermines the reliability and validity of the data that is being collected and shared by the new computer-based Common Core assessments.

The use of test items that are “distractors” on Common Core-aligned standardized tests should also raise concerns and doubts about the efficacy of the Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments and raise serious questions as to whether numerous items on these tests are measuring decision making skills rather than reading comprehension skills.

Distractors are plausible responses but not the “fully correct” answer. Many of the new Common Core test items also require students to select one or more answers that “best support”, are “most significant” or are “most likely”.

“The questions on the Common Core English Language Arts test are more complex than those found on previous tests that measured previous grade‐level standards.

Correct answers will not “jump out”; rather, students will need to make a thoughtful distinction between the fully‐correct option and the plausible but incorrect options.

These multiple‐choice questions are specifically designed to determine whether students have comprehended the entire passage and are proficient with the comprehension and analyses specified by the standards.”

Frequently Asked Questions: 3-8 Testing Program (pg 9, #21)

Here is a sample 4th Grade ELA test question from the 2014-15 PARCC assessment

What is the meaning of the word constantly as the narrator uses it in paragraph 4 of Kira-Kira?

A. often

B. all the time

C. once in a while

D. sometimes

Is the above question testing whether a student knows the meaning of the word constantly, or if a student can distinguish between the meaning of the words often and the phrase all the time?

Furthermore, if one student reads the passage and believes the characters were together often while another student says all the time how do these slightly different interpretations of a reading passage have anything to do with determining and predicting the college readiness of a 4th grader?

The answer key for the sample question states;

Option B is the correct response; the narrator makes it clear that the girls spent all their time together when Lynn was not in school.

While PARCC may be convinced that there is a distiguishable difference between the words constantly and often, according to Merriam-Webster, the word constantly is a synonym for the word often.

When it comes to cultivating reading comprehension skills shouldn’t we be encouraging young readers to broaden and expand their use of vocabulary rather than teaching them that words can have only one meaning? Is it even appropriate or reasonable to claim that a plausible interpretation or understanding of a reading passage is wrong?

PARCC claims these “new and improved” test questions will determine whether students have proficient reading comprehension skills, yet many students may comprehend the reading passage just fine, but they may still choose the plausible or partially correct response whether their decision-making skills are impaired by stress or not.

Ironically when it comes to the CCSS math standards a mathematically proficient student is expected to construct viable or feasible arguments and compare the effectiveness of plausible arguments.

In the United States every citizen is entitled to a presumption of innocence and cannot be found guilty in a court of law if there is reasonable doubt yet we deny our students a presumption of proficiency and their teachers a presumption of effectiveness when we presume that students have insufficient reading comprehension skills and their teachers are ineffective because students selected too many plausible responses.

Climbing Rungless Ladders

Talk with most ed reformers about the importance of the Common Core and many will bring up the need for higher learning standards and more academic rigor in the classroom.

Unfortunately, misguided and poorly designed implementation efforts have resulted in many disadvantaged students being subjected to “grit building” learning activities that are comparable to being required to climb a rungless ladder… 10260017_749020085129823_3965045056750888009_n In January, 2015 it was revealed that 51 percent of K-12 students were living in poverty. One would expect that a data-driven campaign to raise academic achievement in America would take into account this staggering figure. The Ed Department awarded Race To The Top funds to assist states that adopted the Common Core Standards and has established spending priorities and guidelines to support successful implementation of the Standards.

At a time when so many students are living in poverty one would expect that funding priorities would include, additional staff, smaller class sizes, after school programs, morning programs, school counselors, along with essential wrap around and community-based services to help ameliorate the affects of poverty.

Instead the Ed Department has set spending priorities such as upgrading and expanding data collection systems, purchasing new computers and upgrading technology infrastructure to accommodate online testing, implementing new VAM teacher evaluation systems, high quality CCSS professional development for teachers, and designing or purchasing curriculum materials and standardized testing programs.

So while these new and improved tests will allow parents to see if there child is “on track” for college and careers and how effective their child’s teacher is, many poor children will continue to struggle to learn without being able to see the chalkboard…

“My colleagues and I have conducted 2,400 screenings on students in three New York City middle schools: one in the South Bronx, one in Williamsburg and one in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. We have prescribed and distributed 450 free pairs of glasses to the nearly one-fifth of the kids who had 20/40 vision (which means street signs and chalkboards are blurry) or worse. Many of the kids knew they couldn’t see the board, but hadn’t thought to ask for a checkup, because their vision had deteriorated gradually.

Children who struggle to see don’t tend to make for very good students. At Middle School 223 in the Bronx, the principal reported dramatic differences in several students once they’d received their glasses. An eighth-grade boy who had previously been reprimanded for talking during class stopped being disruptive. When administrators asked him what had caused his sudden change in behavior, he explained that he’d been asking other students to help him read the board. A sixth grader who had been notably quiet in class revealed that she had stopped looking at the board because she couldn’t read it.

“Kids Who Can’t See Can’t  Learn”, Pamela F. Gallin NY Times 5/15/15

So while teachers across the country attend close reading professional development sessions, students in poorer schools and communities won’t come close to reading a book in the school library because there are no funds to hire a librarian or purchase new reading material.

“More than half of school libraries in California lack even a part-time state-certified school librarian, compared with about 20 percent nationwide, federal data shows. Urban districts are less likely to fund collections in every school.

Researchers have documented a stark difference in the number of books available outside of the classroom to children from rich and poor families, with children from low-income families typically having fewer books at home and less access to public libraries or bookstores.

Students at many D.C. schools have never had a full-time librarian or an updated book collection, and not all schools have permitted students to check books out of the library.”

“Unequal shelves in D.C. school libraries benefit wealthier students”  3/9/15

While ed reform leaders are proud of their efforts to increase college readiness and raise standards, students in 20% of the public schools in New York City aren’t able to raise their voices in a choir because there are no arts teachers.

“New York City’s comptroller plans to release a report on Monday quantifying what student advocates have long suspected: that many public schools in the city do not offer any kind of arts education, and that the lack of arts instruction disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods…

Between 2006 and 2013, spending on arts supplies and equipment dropped by 84 percent, the report said. When money is tight, arts education is often one of the first subjects to be sidelined, the report noted.

It said the trend had accelerated as schools focused more on meeting accountability standards, shifting their resources from subjects seen as nonessential, like arts, to preparation for English and math tests…”

Vivian Yee, “Arts Education Lacking in Low-Income Areas of New York City, Report Says” 4/7/14

“Just 45 percent of public schools have a full-time registered nurse, according to a 2007 study from the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). Another 30 percent of schools have a nurse who works part time in one or more schools, while 25 percent have no nurse at all.

There has been no comprehensive study since then, but anecdotal reports show that more school nurses are losing their jobs as budgets are cut and health services are a low priority, says Carolyn Duff, president of the NASN.

The preventative care provided by nurses keeps students healthier, which means less absences, Duff says. “School administrators cannot accomplish their mission of enabling students to reach their full academic potential without providing school health services,” she adds.

NASN recommends a nurse-to-student ratio of one-to-750 for students without chronic illnesses. But 33 states were above that average in 2010, the association found. Vermont had the lowest nurse-to-student ratio at 396 students per nurse at the time, while Michigan had the highest, at 4,411 students per nurse.

To determine how many nurses are needed, administrators should consider the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch who may have less access to outside health care, and the number of emergency services calls from the school each year, Duff says.

No federal legislation mandates school nursing, and as of 2005 only 14 states had established student-per-nurse ratios, according to the American Nurses Association. With no nurse on duty, the responsibility for administering medications and treating students falls on administrators, educators and staff who may not have enough training.

In an interview about recent budget cuts, Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite told DA the district was investigating the events leading to the girl’s death. The district meets the state-mandated ratio of one nurse per 1,500 students, so hiring more nurses is not a priority, he says.

The ratio of nurses in Philadelphia schools was 1 to 950 students before the cuts two years ago. And the reduction has led to poorer student health services, according to a May 2013 Education Law Center of Philadelphia survey of school nurses, parents and special education advocates.

Seventy percent of respondents reported that medications and/or treatments were being administered by teachers or aides rather than by nurses, and 52 percent reported that children were not receiving urgent medical care. Another 36 percent said children were not receiving their treatments at prescribed intervals.”

School nurse shortages grow as budgets shrink Alison DeNisco, District Administration, January 2014

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past thirty years, so one would expect that a data-driven education reform movement would make purchasing new playground and sports equipment a priority seeking to decrease sit and learn / sit and test time, rather than buying more computers to “deliver” software solutions and administer the new Common Core assessments.

The Race To The Top funding priorities are more about measuring student achievement and teacher quality, rather than providing essential academic and support services to help our neediest students achieve higher standards.

Expecting the implementation of higher standards to improve student outcomes without investing in necessary wrap around services is like raising the recommended amount of exercise for young people while lowering the recommended calorie intake for youth and then expecting these new standards on their own to decrease the rate of childhood obesity.

Ed reformers data-driven and test-centered approaches to school improvement make as much sense as a doctor advising overweight patients to spend their money on a tape measure, scale, and blood pressure machine rather than purchasing sneakers, a bicycle, or membership in a gym.

Education reform programs implemented in classrooms are focused primarily on measuring the manifestations of poverty and treating student “symptoms” such as low achievement or poor attendance, rather than addressing the underlying “illness” of poverty that is impacting students in their homes and communities around the United States. testiop

College and Career Readiness: A Data Dilemma

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The Common Core will not be able to deliver on the “promise” of college readiness for all students if the data used to inform classroom instruction and measure student achievement, is not valid or reliable.

It is dishonest and dispiriting to tell any student, regardless of ability or disability, that he or she is not “ready” for college based on a GPA, standardized test score, or some other data point.

Developmentally delayed and disabled students who are resourceful, creative, persistent, self-reliant, compassionate, curious, confident, open-minded, courageous, resilient, honest, healthy risk-takers and reliable will be successful in post-secondary studies and careers.

Students who are cognitively privileged but are selfish, lazy, hesitant, dishonest, unreliable, dispassionate, rigid, compelled, doubtful, indifferent, unimaginative, and narrow minded will not be successful in higher ed and work environments.

When it comes to success in college and careers, the ability to independently master complex informational text is far less important than students having learned how to maximize their talents and master themselves.

It is foolish to devote weeks of rigorous sit and learn class time prepping and testing students to supposedly prepare them for college and careers at the expense of vigorous non routine and content rich learning activities that cultivate student agency which is essential for the appropriate and effective application of hard skills.

The Common Core “diet” of close reading and standardized testing has students spending much more time staying connected to text, than learning how to connect with diverse people and ideas.

Not surprisingly, a recent Gallup-Purdue study suggests that we should reconsider and revise the metrics and data we use to assess and predict career readiness.

“When it comes to being engaged at work and experiencing high well-being after graduation, a new Gallup-Purdue University study of college graduates shows that the type of institution they attended matters less than what they experienced there…

Instead, the study found that support and experiences in college had more of a relationship to long-term outcomes for these college graduates. For example, if graduates recalled having a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in all aspects of their well-being.

And if graduates had an internship or job in college where they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom, were actively involved in extracurricular activities and organizations, and worked on projects that took a semester or more to complete, their odds of being engaged at work doubled as well…”

Gallup-Purdue Study, “Life in College Matters for Life After College” 5/6/14

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“The current excessive emphasis on getting short-term economic value out of college will have students attending to their safety net at the precise time when they should be thinking about swinging on the trapeze…

They would be, as Mark Twain put it, allowing schooling to get in the way of one’s education. They would be hanging out on the safety net while never reaching for the trapeze.The college experience encompasses a rich collection of endeavors inside and outside the classroom that shape and prepare young people for success later in life.

Without extracurricular interaction, they’re unlikely to develop the ‘soft skills’ so many employers seek, the nimbleness that comes from managing time across activities, and the essential ‘distractions’ that become as enriching as their studies (and may even become part of a career down the road)…

Steve Jobs didn’t know that a calligraphy course he took on a whim would pay off years later when he launched that first Apple computer. And that’s the point. There’s no way to know. So students should err on the side of opening up, rather than limiting, their possibilities.

By taking a turn on that trapeze every chance they get, their college years will be filled with trials and errors and diverse, engaging experiences. Will it be risky? Sure. But it will also be thrilling and, oh, so rewarding, too.

Some might even call it valuable.”

Carpe College! Blog – “Consuming College: Trapeze or not Trapeze?”, Mike Metzler 

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“There’s way more to college than book learnin’. There are sporting events, concerts, intramural activities, art shows, theater, political demonstrations, philanthropic endeavors, guest speakers, and every possible club activity under the sun, from a cappella singing to rock climbing to Quidditch (Yes, there are even intercollegiate Quidditch competitions nowadays).”

~ Mike Metzler, “Carpe College!”

Reading fiction improves college and career readiness

From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.

~ Helen Hayes 

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Common Core enthusiasts CLAIM that K-12 students need to read much more nonfiction and informational text if they are to be ready for college and careers.

These reformers must not have read the following informational texts that cite research and DATA suggesting a healthy “diet” of fiction provides plenty of “nourishment” and perhaps, better prepares our students for the cognitive, social, and emotional challenges of college and careers.

While comprehension of informational text is an essential skill for employees, it is the lack of soft skills and emotional intelligence that employers more often cite as, “The Real Reason New College Graduates Can’t Get Hired”.

“The imperative to try to understand others’ points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise…

To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day — coworkers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction.

It’s when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience…”

~ Anne Kreamer, “The Business Case for Reading Novels” 1/11/12

“I’ve noticed for many years that executives I coach who only read non-fiction tend to be somewhat more two-dimensional in their perceptions of others and of situations; they seem to have fewer options to call upon when making decisions or solving problems…

The research Anne cites resolves my chicken-and-egg quandary: it seems that reading fiction improves your sensitivity to and appreciation of complex human situations; it provides a richer ‘toolkit’ of understanding from which to pull when making decisions and building relationships.

And as our business lives get more complex, faster-paced, less hierarchical and more dependent upon our ability to build support with those around us – that kind of toolkit becomes ever more critical to our success...”

~ Erika Andersen, “If You Want to Succeed in Business, Read More Novels” 5/31/12

“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different…”

Neil Gaiman“Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming” 10/15/13

Can’t help but wonder if ed reformers penchant for doublethink, unsubstantiated claims, standardized education, and nonfiction, along with David Coleman’s infamous statement, “As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%@# about what you feel or what you think.” are all inspired by fictional text?

Talk about your irony…in futuristic fictional literature, reading a book is portrayed as dangerous to society because it promotes creativity, dissent, feelings, individuality, and independent thought.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Common Core State Standards are used to closely monitor and regulate reading in the classroom in order to discipline student thoughts, (stay connected to text), limit choice, and discourage personal feelings and reflections.


“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.”

~ Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

~ 1984, George Orwell

“We really have to protect people from wrong choices.”

~The Giver, Lois Lowry

fiction

Will the real PARCC Assessment…

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On July 7, 2014 PARCC issued a statement that included the following…

“..The latest good news came Friday: a legal challenge that paused work on the assessments has been overcome, and the PARCC states can continue working to build and deliver high quality assessments that measure how on track students are for success in college and careers.

This is welcome news at a time when, sadly, in some states PARCC has become a political football. That’s a shame for the educators who have worked for years to implement new standards and build better assessments. And it is a shame for students who deserve to have quality tools that tell them where they are on their path to success after high school…

Together, we are working to improve the lives of children from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to inner city Camden and the south side of Chicago. Those kids deserve access to the same engaging and challenging education as their peers across the country. They deserve to know if they will graduate with a meaningless piece of paper or with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a career or in college…

The reality is that the assessments and diagnostic resources are tools developed by exceptional educators across states to help make sure students learn what they need to be prepared for college and work. They also will help ensure students and their parents know the truth about whether they are on track for success after high school or not…”

~ Laura Slover, PARCC is Alive and Well

And back in 2012 PARCC issued the following disclaimer regarding their assessment…

“It must be noted that the academic knowledge, skills, and practices defined by the PARCC CCR Determinations in ELA/literacy and mathematics are an essential part of students’ readiness for college and careers, but do not encompass the full range of knowledge, skills, and practices students need for success in postsecondary programs and careers. 

For example, Conley (2012) includes learning skills and techniques such as persistence, motivation, and time management as critical elements of college and career readiness, along with transition skills and knowledge such as awareness of postsecondary norms and culture and career awareness…

A comprehensive determination of college and career readiness that would include additional factors such as these is beyond the scope of the PARCC assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics..

Since these non-academic factors are so important, PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determinations can only provide an estimate of the likelihood that students who earn them have the academic preparation necessary to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses.”

College- and Career-Ready Determination Policy and Policy-Level PLDs (pgs 2-3) (Adopted October 2012; Updated March 2013) (PDF)

April 20, 2011 John de Rosier editorial cartoon

 

Teachers are like gardeners

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Being a good teacher is a lot like being a good gardener. Good gardeners are optimistic and patient. They are able to see the potential in those struggling young seedlings and enjoy watching them grow, develop and bloom. They give special tender loving care to those few plants that are struggling and not thriving. 

They don’t blame the plant when it’s not performing well; they check the growing conditions. Is the soil the plant is growing in suitable or does it need amending? Does the plant need more water; does the plant need less water? Does the plant need more sunshine; does the plant need less sunshine. 

Good gardeners are good problem solvers, but realize that sometimes no matter what you do, the plant still will not grow the way you would like it to.

~ Elona Hartjes, “Good Teachers Are Like Good Gardeners”

If teachers are like gardeners, then the Common Core is like Miracle-Gro.

The makers of Miracle-Gro understand there are numerous factors that can impact plant growth, and their packaging includes the necessary disclaimer, “results may vary depending on rainfall and temperature.”

Soil formation and fertility is one of many influences on plant growth, and has a direct impact on the ability of a plant to thrive. There are 5 factors that contribute to soil formation including, parent material.

Parent material affects soil fertility in many ways…Parent material is the starting point for most soil development…The type of parent material and how the soil is formed will greatly influence the properties of the soil.”

~University of Hawaii at Manoa, “Soil Formation”

The architects of the Common Core also understand that there are many factors outside the classroom and beyond the reach of teachers that directly impact student progress and “growth” yet they did not include a similar disclaimer regarding the effectiveness of the Standards…

“The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”

By coupling the Standards with standardized tests and VAM the architects of the Common Core can conveniently deflect any concerns regarding the efficacy and quality of the standards because the lack of students to thrive in the classroom is attributed to ineffective teachers.

The architects of the Common Core may claim to be concerned about proper implementation of the Standards, but they obviously knew it would be very difficult for teachers to focus on thoughtfully unpacking the Standards while they were busy packing their bags.

It is understandable that nations want to replicate Finland’s bountiful education “garden” but we are spending millions of dollars on new computers, software solutions, and standardized tests to increase student achievement while neglecting to invest in art programs, work-based learning, trade and vocational programs, adult education, wrap around services, and other community-based programs that help to assure America’s education soil is ‘fertile” and will properly nourish student “growth”.

That is like a gardener purchasing a lifetime supply of Miracle-Gro, pruning shears, and rulers to measure plant growth, but having no more money to purchase frost blankets, a garden hose, or even pay the water bill.