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;

43 thoughts on “Common Core Standards = No Child Left Behind on Steroids”

  1. Great article, and Otteray I feel for your grand daughter. You hit the nail on the head, the schools are being designed to push kids through a narrow key slot and if you don’t fit, tough. We have nearly completely lost sight of what our schools are for, to teach kids the skills they need to grow up and be successful and happy adults, and unfortunately more and more we are failing at that basic idea.

  2. The outsourcing and matrixing of our public education is probably the most important topic we have. Thanks raff for the interesting take.

  3. Teaching to the test techniques are worse than useless. Schools keep up a facade by claiming they are preparing kids for the future. They aren’t. They are teaching kids to prepare for the 1980s.

    The Labor Department reported that the ten jobs most in demand in 2010 did not even exist in 2004. Digital game companies spend about twice as much on pure research and development as the US government total scientific research budget.

    Students who start a four year curriculum for a degree are finding out that most of what they learned in their first year is outdated by the third year.

    Teaching to a test is relatively easy. Teaching kids to think is more work for the school, but more fun for the kids, and in the long run, prepare them better for life when they get out of school. That is not happening. I have a new grandson. He he will be eight months old tomorrow. What kind of future will he have. His parents have been expressing concern to me for some time. My granddaughter started having panic attacks when it came time to go to high school in the morning. The last straw was when she had a complete panic breakdown one morning. She left school halfway through the eleventh grade and never looked back. A few weeks ago she too the GED test to get her high school diploma, and made the 99%ile. For a gifted youngster, her “teaching to the test”/ “no child left behind” school was making her sick, literally.

    What do these schools do with the kids on either end of the tail of the curve? Both need special help, but in very different ways. However, the attempted egalitarian approach does not fit, or benefit, either of these groups of kids.

  4. Dredd,
    I understand what you are saying, but once again, the standards were not designed by the teaching experts. The school districts are incorporating the standards because if they don’t, they get less federal money.
    BTW, Good George Carlin video!

  5. In North Carolina there are an incredible number of foreignors who are doctors in hospitals and clinics. Not enough doctors produced here. Yet the State spends billions on athletes. Then they get coaching jobs at schools and teach your kid phys ed, driving, shop. Went in dumb, come out dumb too. Florida is much worse.

  6. I would also go to the School Board and ask that the Principals and Teachers get tested. I would start with IQ. Then go to grammar, spulling, diction, Dickens and arithmetic. Remember the time old adage: Those who can, do; those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t teach, teach teachers.

  7. Kids need to start by learning the three R’s, readin’,writin’, ‘rithmetic. Too many are moving through grade after grade without these basic skills but those skills are essential for all that follows. There are so many things that need to be taught to all and with critical thinking as an integral part of each course: civics, history, geography, science, music, art, sex education, basic finances, home economics, shop. Classes need to be smaller, administrators need to have a healthy dose of common sense, parents need to be engaged.

    rant off, for now.

  8. rafflaw 1, June 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    You can’t get off that easy. The school districts and administration dictate what gets taught and how. The teachers have to implement bad choices with a myriad of different students and family and health problems thrown in to boot.
    You asked: “Why don’t we leave the teaching to the professionals …”

    I said: “That is how we got to where we are now.

    The school districts are professionals.

    The universities that make them professionals are professionals.

    “Professional” just means having a license to legally get paid to do something.

    The whores in Las Vegas are professionals.

    The whole system is professional.

    That is the problem.

    Anyone can screw things up, but it takes experts to expertly screw things up.

  9. Susan,
    When you read the standards and see how they are applied, the question of who devised them is very important. The blog posts gives evidence that the standards were devised by people with ties to testing corporations. I would think that anyone would be concerned by that possible conflict of interest. The post also states that anything good should be retained, but the high stakes testing has not worked and it is used to demean students, faculty and schools and to push the for profit school agenda.

  10. If I had a kid I would home school him/her for one hour per day and teach all of the well rounded topics now left out by the schools. Civics, history, philosophy, dog bone ethics and all the things a person needs.

  11. The most important question that the Core standards raise, and which is not answered in the blog post and not answered without prejudice in the posts.
    The ONLY questions that are pertinent:
    “What are the standards”,
    “Will the standards when applied assist our students in achieving knowledge of the world, our country, reading comprehension, math literacy, critical thinking and basic scientific knowledge”?
    Who devised them and even how they are “marketed” is immaterial. If they are good and better than exists now, they are good.

  12. When I read stories like this one I see a large room and a bunch of excited people screaming LETS DO THIS! No one asks is it effective? is it worthwhile? how much will it cost? Will it improve education for our children? They just say LETS DO IT!

    Where are the adults in this administration? Is no one looking out for the children, education, lesrning or the budget? NO!

    Obama seems to be Bush on steroids in almost every area. In those areas where he is arguably better, he is Luke warm tea rather thus a robust cup of coffee. I am so tired of him……… What a disappointment!

  13. Dredd,
    You can’t get off that easy. The school districts and administration dictate what gets taught and how. The teachers have to implement bad choices with a myriad of different students and family and health problems thrown in to boot.

  14. If more people would wake UP, they wouldn’t be the least confused about the alleged merits of programs of NCLBehind. They’d KNOW that BushObomba always and only support policies that financially benefit
    the 1%, and any modest benefit to the rest of America that happens – just
    makes it that much easier to sell ideas that that bring harm to most of us.

  15. 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?

    I’m not sure what you mean by this but if this was to happen then learning and teaching would become fun again and with a more rounded education you have smarter people that are taught think for themselves. What a concept compared to what’s happening now in the dumbing down of Amerika children that soon become unthinking adults. Edward Byrne was right.

  16. Raff,

    A very important story as Corporations and Faux Philanthropists try to bankrupt our public schools and get the money for themselves, for an inferior product.

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