Common Core Standards = No Child Left Behind on Steroids


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We have all heard the stories about the federal education policy instituted under the George W. Bush administration referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  That program required schools to continually test students in order to gauge which schools are “failing” to produce students who were making sufficient educational progress.  The outgrowth of NCLB was the need for teachers to “teach to the test”.  Schools across the country stopped teaching important subject areas because they were not deemed important enough to be on the all important test.  Now, the latest federal educational program embraced by the Obama Administration, called Common Core standards, builds on the NCLB program and continues to force testing using standards that have not even been tested and are products of corporate sponsors tied to the testing industry!

“For starters, the misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They’re national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)

Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Of the 135 members on the official Common Core review panels convened by Achieve Inc., the consulting firm that has directed the Common Core project for the NGA, few were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.” Common Dreams

I guess that in this day and age I should not be surprised that testing companies would be behind the push to continue to keep testing students.  Maybe I am naïve, but why would any administration want to push for standards that haven’t been tested in any schools?  I understand the financial reasons why States and school districts want to implement these standards.  Without them they could not get the Race to the top grants or the NCLB waivers that the Common Dreams article discussed.  However, the evidence shows that the NCLB type testing requirements do not produce the results that its backers and the proponents of Common Core allege.

“We have seen this show before. The entire country just finished a decade-long experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to adopt “rigorous” curriculum standards and test students annually to gauge progress towards reaching them. Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. (Before NCLB, only 19 states tested all kids every year, after NCLB all 50 did.)

By any measure, NCLB was a dismal failure in both raising academic performance and narrowing gaps in opportunity and outcomes. But by very publicly measuring the test results against benchmarks no real schools have ever met, NCLB did succeed in creating a narrative of failure that shaped a decade of attempts to “fix” schools while blaming those who work in them. By the time the first decade of NCLB was over, more than half the schools in the nation were on the lists of “failing schools” and the rest were poised to follow.”  Common Dreams

Are these testing requirements just attempts to keep testing companies thriving?  Is it possible that the standards are actually designed to fail and push states and districts into the voucher programs and/or the charter schools that Mayor Emanuel in Chicago is pushing for?   

As the Common Dreams article suggests, some of the standards and ideas may be useful, but its reliance on expensive “high stakes testing” has already received a failing grade in the NCLB coursework. Why follow a path that has already been proved to be a failure?

The answer could be the cynical one that I suggested in my earlier questions.  The results that have already come in on the Common Core standards and testing may be the proof in the pudding.  “Reports from the first wave of Common Core testing are already confirming these fears. This spring students, parents, and teachers in New York schools responded to administration of new Common Core tests developed by Pearson Inc. with a general outcry against their length, difficulty, and inappropriate content. Pearson included corporate logos and promotional material in reading passages. Students reported feeling overstressed and underprepared—meeting the tests with shock, anger, tears, and anxiety. Administrators requested guidelines for handling tests students had vomited on. Teachers and principals complained about the disruptive nature of the testing process and many parents encouraged their children to opt out.

Common Core has become part of the corporate reform project now stalking our schools. Unless we dismantle and defeat this larger effort, Common Core implementation will become another stage in the demise of public education.”  Common Dreams

To be fair, I would hope that any of the useful portions of the Common Core standards could be retained without the need for the high-stakes testing that has failed in the past.  If I had been required to go through high stakes testing similar to what the Common Core requires, I might still be taking High School Geometry!

I have a novel idea.  Why don’t we leave the teaching to the professionals and teach a broad curriculum, without the additional testing requirements that have not succeeded?  Can we improve troubled schools without attacking teachers or their unions?  If we do not stop this rush to corporate, for profit schools, I fear for our country.  Our students may learn what corporations want them to know under these standards, but is that a good thing?  What do you think?

Additional References:  Common Core;  Illinois State Board of Education;

Washington Post;

Education Votes;

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