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. Robinh,
    Spam filter will snag comments with more than two links. Try your last comment again, but this time only put two links in it. Break it into multiple comments to accommodate three or more links.

  2. Critical Consciousness

    As education is subverted into mere training, three essentials of intelligence are being lost:

    Critical thinking


    Critical consciousness

    Critical consciousness is the ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against the oppressive elements of society, as delineated by the author’s recently published book Progressive Awareness.

    The concept of critical consciousness (conscientizacao) was developed by Paulo Freire primarily in his books:

    Pedagogy of the Oppressed

    Education for Critical Consciousness

    The tactics of critical consciousness and a pedagogy of the oppressed were first developed by Freire in his work with third-world people, helping them gain an awareness of world conditions while teaching them to read.

    If you examine graduate courses on Global Economy, for example, you’ll not find a single mention of the terrible human costs: rising unemployment in the home economies, slave wages in the third world countries where manufacturing is relocated, runaway immigration, and a constant degradation of the environment.

    Freire worked to help third-world people overcome illiteracy. Today, his insights can be applied to two different kinds of illiterate people:

    Those who cannot grasp the sense of letters or symbols

    Those who can “read” (in the grammar school sense) but who cannot read: understand the meaning of the words they see

    There are those today, for example, who “read” about such things as worker layoffs and American corporations relocating their manufacturing plants in China or Indonesia, but who do not understand the meaning of what they “read.”

    Another kind of modern-day “illiteracy” occurs as people “read” or “hear” the “news” in newspapers or on TV, and allow themselves to be taken in by the propaganda that such “news” involves.

    America today is a combat zone where the War Against Intelligence is constantly being waged. Unfortunately, the rulers are currently winning: Americans are progressively losing their ability to understand what is happening in the world around them. Americans are unable to see that the cabal is using the pretext of the war against terrorism to destroy essential constitutional liberties. Billions of dollars have been stolen by the wealthy in the bailout scam, while the working class is devastated through unemployment and home foreclosures. A poor person is jailed for a $20 theft, but a plutocrat is allowed to steal the pension fund of thousands of workers without penalty.

    The cabal attacked American learning through the Education Bill signed into law by President Bush in January, 2002. The bill essentially equates education with training for high test scores. Those who benefit most from this new law are not students or teachers but the publishers of textbooks and companies that carry out testing: one of whom is Neil Bush, Dubya’s brother. To see how these benefiting companies are directly tied to the Bush family,

  3. this is not something new that was just implented by the bush family. truth is these plans were put into place back in the 1800’s

    Hall considered American working-class children as a “great army of incapables, shading down to those who should be in schools for dullards or subnormal children, for those whose mental development heredity decrees a slow pace and an early arrest.”

    J. McKeen Cattell J. McKeen Cattell served for three years as Wundt’s lab assistant in Leipzig, receiving final approval for his Ph.D. from Wundt in 1886. Cattell’s primary interests lay in mental testing and in individual differences in ability. While at Leipzig, Cattell carried out a series of experiments examining the manner in which a person sees the words he is reading.

    Testing adults who already knew how to read, Cattell “discovered” they could recognize words without having to sound out the letters. “Eureka!” he said to himself. “Words are not understood by a recognition of the image or the sound of letters, but are perceived as ‘total word pictures.'”

    He jumped to the conclusion that you shouldn’t teach a child the sounds of letters and phrases as the first step to being able to read. You teach children how to read by showing them words, and telling them what the words are. This “breakthrough” of Cattell’s led to the adoption of a sight-reading method in many school systems throughout the United States. The result ever since has been increased illiteracy, which has now become a national crisis.

    Somewhat effective teaching occurred in the first half of the twentieth century in America, primarily because the nation was rapidly moving from an agricultural to an industrial culture and citizens respected and valued education. The Enlightenment ideal of an informed citizenry was still a powerful incentive, so high school civics classes taught the rudiments of what the American political system was supposed to be according to the federal and state constitutions.

    However, except in a few instances, American students were never made aware of what was really going on in the world–in terms of the machinations of the predatory cabal. For example, the exposés of writers such as George Seldes or I. F. Stone would have been beyond the pale for most American schools. So Americans fought World War II ignorant of how U.S. companies had helped set up the Nazi regime in Germany and profited from its killing of Allied soldiers.

    Beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, American education began its rapid and almost total decline. In the latter half of the twentieth and now the twenty-first century, “education” has almost entirely been turned into mere training. The very definition of “education” has been twisted to make it appear to be training. For example,

    “Technological society turns out to work in the opposite way from that usually supposed: namely, by actually requiring less rather than more education of its workers. This is because modern industry depends on reducing human error, which means reducing dependence on the individual worker’s expertise and judgment. In building or maintaining electronic devices, workers who once installed or rewired electrical circuits now plug in modular components consisting of machine-printed circuit boards. . . A mindless mass follows its dictator The future role of literacy in the workplace has been succinctly stated by Pierre Dogan, the president of Granite Communications, a company that is now ‘developing software for hotel housekeeping.’ It seems that ‘so long as maids can read room numbers, they will be able to check off tasks completed or order supplies by simply touching pictures on the screen.” Dogan points out that ‘you can create a work program with prompting including iconic [picture] messages.’ In fact, he logically concludes, ‘you can use an illiterate workforce.'”

    why bother teaching them to read? Because of this twisting of “education” into training, as a university instructor I was faced with students who had never learned to read, write, or think. They were the wounded, deformed casualties of the criminal cabal’s war against the mind. But the educational establishment doesn’t even recognize the devastated condition of American education. Many university professors, even full professors, cannot write or speak sound English. A department chair in a state university in California recently wrote a book, which he forced all students in the introductory class to buy, which contained over one hundred grammatical errors!

    Quota hiring is rampant in higher education. Unfortunately, the ability to speak intelligible English is no longer required, and students suffer the consequences.

  4. I have taught for more than 12 years after leaving a lucrative PR career because I had a heart to teach children. My salary is still $10,000 lower than the PR salary I left. I never have complained though because for at least half of those years, I knew I was making a difference for individual students. In the past six years, however, there have been so many changes in education that teachers spend most of their time jumping through hoops, pushing paper work, and often teaching concepts that aren’t really necessary, but are part of the standards and part of the test. (For example: Middle School language arts requires that students understand the different types of camera angles and why a director would choose to use a certain camera angle. As a communication major, I learned this in college. Why should 12 year-old students need to know this for a standardized test?.) Despite popular belief, good teachers don’t just work five hours a day and go home. They end up spending 10 or more hours a day working, either teaching, grading, or preparing. Most in our district will also spend up to three or four weeks during summer “break” going to common core training or other training on “new and improved” products our districts are purchasing because we have government money available. We just purchased new language arts textbooks, even though we had perfectly fine language arts books that were only two years old. Why? Government money was available. Because of that, teachers are having to train on the resources available, forsake the books they have been using to do new lesson plans, learn new website resources, and many other changes….. This would be fine if there was a good reason for the change. It is all about money. The new textbooks were written by the Collegeboard, who does SAT testing too. I wonder how much influence that NON-PROFIT had on getting the federal government grant written? It is disheartening that the teachers who dedicate their lives teaching for very little money have to continue revamping their instruction for money-hungry corporations and governments. The students end up losing because teachers are pulled in so many different and useless directions.

  5. This is all part of the Bush-family method of using government to be the influence-peddlers to riches, along with their corporate buddies who hang on for the taxpayer-funded ride to the top. Jebbie has been running this scam in Florida for as long as he’s been in Florida. This is about personal enrichment for the Bushes, as always. Never about public well-being. EVER.

  6. Raff,

    Historically, the ‘experts’ use to be part of the Ruling Class. The Ruling Class (Elites) has set the standards for everything in this country, including educational criteria; these standards have been utilized in preventing upward mobility for and socially controlling the 99%.

    In his book entitled, “The American College & University: A History”, Dr. Frederick Rudolph stated:

    “The broad purposes, which the college served, were further clarified by a commencement orator in the 1670’s: ‘the ruling class would have been subjected to mechanics, cobblers, and tailors….the laws would not have been made by senatus consulta, nor would we have rights, honors, or magisterial ordinance worthy of preservation, but plebiscites, appeals to base passions, and revolutionary rumblings’…..a nation needed leaders disciplined by knowledge and learning….it needed followers (99%) disciplined by leaders, it needed order.”

    Our educational system, founded by the ‘experts,’ excluded women as students. In their book entitled, ‘Women’s Way of Knowing’, Dr. Nancy R. Goldberger et al asserts:

    “Education, as it is traditionally defined and practiced, does not adequately serve the needs of women students and is unresponsive to women’s doubts about their competence and worth. Most of our major educational institutions were originally founded by men for the education of men. Even girl’s schools and women’s colleges have been modeled after male institutions to give women an education ‘equivalent’ to men’s…..Usually teachers and faculty assume that pedagogical techniques developed by and for men are suitable for women.”

    Finally, our educational system, founded by the experts, have excluded minorities as students. Numerous studies have indicated that not only do men learn differently from women, but also ethnic minorities learn differently (basically blacks, Hispanics, etc. learn differently than whites).

    Here are a few articles, delineating this educational phenomenal:

    Understanding Black Male Learning Styles:

    Learning Styles of African Americans:

    Our current educational system needs more than reform measures; it needs a revolution.

  7. Newly elected Gov. Mark Dayton of Minneapolis, who had the full backing of the Teacher’s Union, recently vetoed a $1.5 million dollar funding for Teach For America. Teach for America had been working in Twin Cities schools the past 4 years and like everywhere, have gotten high praise from principals, parents, students, pols, but not the teacher’s union. I know 2 kids who worked inner city schools in NYC and Baltimore via Teach For America. They loved the program. They said they got resistance from hardline unionists, but they were a distinct minority. Both kids were hired by the school as teachers after their TFA tour of duty.

  8. Otteray,

    ALL of the children are being giving short shrift because educators are now forced to frame the curriculum around testing and to prep children for the tests. It has a negative impact on the struggling students, the “average” students, and the very brightest students. The educational process has been warped by the mania for high stakes tests that are being used to evaluate students, teachers, principals, and entire school systems.

    It isn’t just that children are all very different. It’s that different communities serve different kinds of populations. The cookie cutter approach to educating children is one that does not have the best interests of children at heart.

  9. How did it happen that we test every child.

    If the objective is to test school performance what is the benefit for testing every child in the entire country?

    There several factors that are know to be correlated with performance on standardized test, such as SES and education of parents. These factors are generally beyond control of the schools.

    What attempt is made to control for factors beyond the control of the school when schools are evaluated?

    There are so many questions asked of the test scores: how is a particular child doing, how is the school doing in a particular year or over time, how do schools compare in the system or nationally, how are the teachers doing in a particular year, over time, in comparison to other teachers.

    I have to wonder if unadjusted data from testing every child is useful answering the many question raised by parents, administrators and politicians.

  10. Elaine,
    The operant word(s) are “standardized testing.” There is absolutely nothing standard about kids. Yes, 68 percent have IQs that fall within one standard deviation of the mean. That means 32 percent don’t fit neatly into a pigeonhole of the middle. A third of the kids are being given short shrift.

  11. Testing-driven education means giant corporate profits and ‘pineapples don’t have sleeves’
    by Laura Clawson
    Apr 29, 2012

    n the past week, an unbelievably stupid set of questions on a New York standardized test has made headlines. As a result, the state education commissioner has announced that the questions won’t be counted toward students’ official scores, but if you care about education, the concerns raised by these test questions can’t end with “they don’t count in New York.” For one thing, these questions have been in use for years, in multiple states. While they won’t count in New York, they have counted for many other students—and the teachers whose performance is judged by those students’ test scores.

    The questions at issue (PDF) were attached to a reading passage parodying the tortoise and the hare. In this one, a pineapple challenges a hare to a race, leaving other animals confused about who they should root for and whether the pineapple has a victory plan—a moose suggests that “The pineapple has some trick up its sleeve.” When the race begins, the pineapple just sits there and is ultimately eaten by the animals, leading to the “MORAL: Pineapples don’t have sleeves.” The students then had to answer ambiguous questions such as why the animals ate the pineapple and which animal was the wisest.

    “Pineapples don’t have sleeves” is eminently quotable; the silliness of the passage and questions doubtless helped publicize it and get it looked at with a critical eye, but we can’t let that same silliness obscure at least three major issues this episode highlights: Testing is big business bringing some corporations enormous profits, the tests that are so much a focus of education policy today are fallible, and the tests themselves are just the leading edge of how testing companies are making their way into the schools and defining the education kids get…

    Texas has been at the forefront of the testing craze; in fact, testing was one of the things George W. Bush brought with him from Texas and pushed to a national level, through No Child Left Behind. In 2000, Pearson Education, the company that produces tests for Texas, “signed a $233 million contract to provide tests for Texas schools, and in 2005 they got another $279 million.” In 2011, as Texas was slashing its education budget to the bone, Gov. Rick Perry’s administration gave Pearson a $470 million contract “to come up with a new test that will hold Texas schoolchildren to a higher standard at the same time that budget cuts are forcing them into increasingly crowded classrooms.”

    But Texas isn’t alone. Pearson is the company responsible for “pineapples don’t have sleeves,” and the size of those Texas contracts combined with the fact that the pineapples passage has appeared on tests in New York, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, and Illinois at a minimum should give you some idea just how lucrative the testing business is for Pearson and other testing firms. In fact, combined state spending on standardized tests went from $423 million in 2001 to $1.1 billion in 2008.

    When educational policy is just coincidentally falling in line with something that very directly creates large corporate profits, it’s time to stop and consider whether maybe the policy is being driven more by profit than by actual results.

    (Continue reading below the fold)

  12. Thanks, rafflaw. I have been collecting information on the subject of high stakes testing for some time–but never posted a story about it. Here’s a link to and an excerpt from one of the articles I found:

    Texas schools chief calls testing obsession a ‘perversion’
    By Valerie Strauss

    The Republican education commissioner of Texas, Robert Scott, might not be the first person you’d think would find common ground with California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, but Scott has savaged high-stakes testing in language that would make Brown smile.

    Speaking to the Texas State Board of Education late last month, Scott said that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be.

    What’s more, he called “the assessment and accountability regime” not only “a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex.” And he attacked the Common Core Standards Initiative as being motivated by business concerns.

    “What we’ve done in the past decade, is we’ve doubled down on the test every couple of years, and used it for more and more things, to make it the end-all, be-all,” Scott said. “… You’ve reached a point now of having this one thing that the entire system is dependent upon. It is the heart of the vampire, so to speak.”

    These sentiments — which he repeated in similar language at a conference of school administrators a few days later — go well beyond the common sentiment in Texas Republican politics that public education policy should be the domain of state and local officials and not the federal government. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has famously feuded with President Obama’s administration over the federal government’s role in school reform.

    Scott’s attack on testing mania sounded like Brown, who has attacked test-based school reform and said he wants to reduce the number of standardized tests students take. (You can see the whole video of Scott speaking at the meeting by going here and clicking on “view discussion of item 1.” And here’s Scott at the school administrators conference.)

    Scott made the comments amid growing concern among parents, educators and even business leaders in the state about a new standardized testing regime called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, STARR, which is the successor to the maligned Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS. Under the new system, 15 percent of the grades of high school students in English, history, math and science will be based on test results.

    Here are some of the things that Scott said at the board meeting late last month, taken from the video and from the Dallas Morning News:

    “I’ve been a proponent of standardized testing, for some things, and I want to continue to use it, for some things. But we have overemphasized it, and even if we haven’t overemphasized it specifically at the state level, the perception out there is that it is the end-all, be-all, and that is causing behavior in many cases, to compound upon itself, and even if that’s not the intent at the state level, that’s reality. And perception is reality, so once they perceive that is all that counts, that it’s all we’re looking at, that’s all they focus on.”

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