Performance Standards

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The Common Core’s emphasis on higher learning standards is well intended but poorly executed and evaluated. Standards are expectations of student learning and skill development. Skills must be acquired by students rather than imparted by teachers or the standards.

We are mistakenly evaluating student learning and predicting future outcomes based on how well a child meets a particular standard of performance at a predetermined moment in time regardless of individual circumstance, ability, or disability.

Availability of funding, class size, academic support programs, wrap around services, along with numerous other  “barriers to learning” that exist outside of school and beyond the reach of teachers, can also have an impact and diminish student performance.

Furthermore, cognitive skills emerge and develop differently in people depending on both genetic and environmental factors, and that is why K-12 education programs should focus on the acquisition and cultivation of individualized, customized, and transferable skills, rather than standardized ones.

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Conversely, learning activities that foster the development of foundational social and emotional skills and cultivate student agency should be standard practice and a primary focus of all K-12 programs.

Students learn differently and school programs that emphasize a standardized curriculum and standardized testing will not by osmosis standardize student skills and abilities or synchronize student learning.

Students must actively participate in the learning process and care to do better if their performance is going to improve.

Learning is not done to you.

learning is something you choose to do.

~Seth Godin

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Student agency and self-efficacy is an essential component of achievement and learning in school. The appropriate and effective application of hard skills is soft skills dependent.

Rather than a narrow focus on the acquisition of “college ready” numeracy and literacy skills measured by a standardized test, K-12 education programs should cultivate the development of diverse academic, social, and emotional skills that will prepare students for the real “tests” in life.

Common Core’s misguided emphasis on rigorous “college ready” math and ELA skills may be well intended, but in practice other critically important skills and vigorous learning experiences are crowded out and receive less attention in the classroom.

A broad-based and well balanced K-12 education program will help to assure that each child achieves his or her academic, social, and emotional potential as they acquire a comprehensive and customized set of life skills and “tools”.

A contractor may possess the literacy skills to understand building plans, permits, and blueprints along with the numeracy skills to construct a level, square, and properly angled structure but that is of little consequence if he or she lacks the self-confidence and courage to climb a ladder and the balance to work on a roof.

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Every person is unique and cognitive ability will always differ among our students. K-12 education programs must include activities and diverse experiences or “pathways” that cultivate academic, social, emotional, and vocational skills that will enhance and support student learning and growth throughout life.

Passion-driven learning respects students as individual learners with unique interests, talents, and abilities while data-driven Common Core education programs seek to rate, sort, and compare students according to a narrow and standardized set of math and ELA skills.

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Cognitively delayed and disabled students who are resourceful, creative, persistent, self-reliant, compassionate, generous, curious, confident, flexible, open-minded, courageous, resilient, and volunteer will succeed in college and careers.

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

A more accurate and reliable indicator or predictor of “readiness” is not how well you perform on a standardized test at a particular moment in time, but whether you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue learning and striving towards a higher level of performance.

It is foolish to claim that all high school graduates must first acquire the same “college ready” Common Core math and ELA skills in order to attend and succeed in college, when they just need to be “ready to learn” and apply the numeracy and literacy skills they do have in more advanced and challenging ways.

What would have been the likelihood of Michael Jordan being “career ready” if his K-12 schooling was focused primarily on acquiring the same math and ELA skills as his classmates at the expense of time spent discovering his passion and developing his unique and special athletic skills and abilities?

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Schooling should help children DISCOVER their own unique talents, not “standardize” them.

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Grading teachers based on when their students acquire and master a specific set of skills, is like grading parents based on when their children learn to tie their shoes or ride a bike.

While, most people can learn to ride a bicycle, not everyone has the innate ability, determination, and desire to become a BMX racer.

When it comes to acquiring new skills, the level of proficiency a student achieves and the speed at which that occurs, depends on a variety of factors including; type of instruction, how often they independently practice and use the skill, parental involvement, student engagement, and most importantly, cognitive ability and disability.

The Common Core State Standards are specific “goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students need in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level.”

Every student is expected to meet these standards or “targets” on schedule, and regardless of each student’s cognitive ability or disability.

All high school students will not be able to pass a Calculus class, just as not every student will be reading on grade level at the end of each school year. Testing students repeatedly does not improve their skills or change their abilities and disabilities.

A Standardized test score does not explain why a student performed at a particular skill level and cannot predict how they will perform in the future, or even when they will acquire and master a particular skill.

The rate of speed at which each student acquires new skills will most certainly change from year to year and it is speculative at best to determine the “college readiness” of an elementary student based on a data point.

There are many factors that impact student achievement from year to year, and a standardized test score cannot predict which child will be bullied, experience divorce, a death in the family, experience depression, unemployment, become homeless, develop an eating disorder, abuse drugs, join a gang, run away from home etc.

Despite it’s constructivist “promise”, the standardized testing regime of the Common Core forces teachers and students to focus on a predetermined and narrow set of measurable skills.

Unfortunately, the Common Core is more concerned with telling students what “college readiness” skills they have yet to master at each grade level, rather than helping every student to discover his or her own unique talents and unleashing the athletic, artistic, musical, creative, emotional, inventive, social, scientific, and vocational skills they do possess.

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