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Dieting Lessons and Common Core

CER President Jeanne Allen’s full response to a thoughtful piece by Michael McShane titled Dispatches from a nervous Common Core observer (part 3 of 10): Can’t anything be called ‘Common Core Aligned?’ is found below. Please see AEI’s blog for original commentary.

I’m still back on the diet analogy Mike. To me, reading your analysis and the other commentary since Monday, it’s sounding a little bit more like the Atkins diet, and you know what happened to him right? (He allegedly died of a heart attack, after doing what I’m doing right now at my desk as I type — eating only protein!)

Here’s the skinny, so to speak. The Atkins diet is apparently the worst thing you can do to yourself, according to traditional nutritionists who want us to eat major portions of grain and carb-rich veggies every day. They have attacked the Atkins followers, like me, through Doctors, and health plans, and in their pushing of nutra-this or that in a bottle, can or in an IV. They say if we follow this one approach to dieting we will lack valuable nutrients, increase our cholesterol and unhelpful fats and probably risk the fate of the diet’s author. Meanwhile, millions of us who follow the Atkins diet in whole or in part do very well in keeping our fats down and our tummies tucked.

Sadly, the same orthodox view we see toward dieting by traditionalists is the attitude I’m seeing from my friends and colleagues toward those who are challenging the conventional wisdom on Common Core State Standards. I’m not sure I know the answer, but what I am confident of is that many reformers and leaders are all too quick to dismiss as heresy, radicalism, libertarianism or stupidity anyone who questions Common Core.

So I welcome your delving deep

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Newswire: March 12, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 10

RACISM & GREED? Should our public services be used for people who really need them? Aren’t prisons a place for criminals who defiantly break the law? And how exactly does intentionally breaking the law help children understand the importance of schooling? These and more questions are on our minds as we ponder the actions by President of the AFT union Randi Weingarten this past Thursday, who, upon her arrival in Philadelphia to protest the closing of 23 FAILING (yes that was caps intentionally) schools got herself arrested. Make no mistake — this was planned. Anyone with a big time PR shop like the AFT has doesn’t do these things without much consideration. You could just see her — boarding the plane, arriving in Philly, taking her car to the site, getting poised to protest and WHAM, standing in front of the door to the School Reform Commission meeting just to be carried away to the Klink, the pen – prison! The cheering and hizzahs were incredible, thanks to the adult members of the union who joined her. “This is about Racism and Greed” one sign said. Actually — he’s half right. It’s about the not so subtle racism that pervades a system that makes someone want to keep a bad school open and keep poor kids of color from getting a good education and it’s about the greed of the unions who just can’t let it go.

BABIES TO THE CORE. Those cute little kindergartens we all like to fawn over are apparently getting the shaft in schools that have already started implementing the Common Core standards for young children. It’s not intentional, as Harlem Village Academies Founder & Author (and CER 2006 Honoree) Deborah Kenny writes in a fabulous op-ed. It’s that teaching

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What’s Wrong with Common Core ELA Standards?

An Indiana website picked up this paper from Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, and dubbed it “The best explanation of why Common Core ELA standards are rubbish”. The paper was presented at an Educational Policy Conference in St. Louis, Missouri on January 25, 2013 and is posted in its entirety below.

Literature or Technical Manuals: Who Should Be Teaching What, Where, and Why?
by Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

I. Purpose

Over 45 states adopted Common Core’s ELA standards in 2010, in some cases before they were even written. Only in 2012 did some discussion about their implications take place in the media. Discussion has centered mostly on what English teachers are doing to their classroom curriculum to address Common Core’s division of reading standards into 10 for informational texts and 9 for literary texts. Some teachers and parents believe students should spend more time in English classes learning how to read informational texts, chiefly because that is the kind of reading they will do in college and daily life. Others deplore what they see as a drastic reduction in literary study, the traditional focus of high school English as well as the major focus of English teachers’ academic coursework as English majors.

Recently, some attention shifted to an appendix in Common Core’s ELA document that lists titles sorted by grade level and genre (stories, poetry, drama, and informational text). Concerns have been expressed about what lies behind some of these titles, especially the titles of government reports.

It is important to note that the purpose of Appendix B was to suggest the level of complexity that reading and English teachers are to seek in the texts they select to teach at a particular grade level. It was not intended as a

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Common Core Pushes Edith Wharton Aside

January 28, 2013

Who knew Edith Wharton might lose her place in history because of the Common Core? In yet another article about how state standards are being negatively affected by the new wave of national standards, this pioneering piece from the Pioneer Institute makes clear that there’s more at stake than meets the eye.

Seems that there’s no shortage of issues with content and approach bubbling to the surface in the multi-million effort, so much so that the Foundation For Educational Excellence, Jeb Bush’s group, has taken to debunking what they are calling Common Core myths on a regular basis. Myth or reality, the point is that things are going missing. Perhaps we need to dig deeper before going all in.

Is Common Core about to Melt Down?

by Neal McCluskey
October 11, 2012

Is the national curriculum standards debate about to go nuclear?

Proponents of national standards, as I’ve pointed out many times, have made a concerted effort to avoid attention as they’ve insidiously—and successfully—pushed the so-called Common Core on states. They’ve insisted the effort is “state led,” even though states didn’t create the standards and Washington coerced adoption through Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers. They’ve called adoption “voluntary,” even with the heavy hand of the Feds behind them. And they’ve assiduously avoided what blew up past efforts to impose national standards: concrete content such as required readings or history lessons that were guaranteed to make people angry.

Well, with a recent unveiling of sample items for federally funded tests that go with the standards, all that might be about to change, and the whole thing could become radioactive to the public.

A couple of days ago the HechingerEd blog—from the education-centric Hechinger Report—published a post looking at preliminary testing items from the two consortia hand-picked by the Obama administration to create the national tests. Included in the post were links to sample items. I didn’t hit every one, but those I did check out contained, among other things,  confusing readings, poor questions, and lame functionality (in some cases the reading material on which questions were based didn’t even show up). And here’s one for the grammarians: A video-based item about the effect of weightlessness on astronauts’ bodies asked how weightlessness is like “lying” on a bed. The astronaut being interviewed, however, said it’s like “laying on a bed.” A small matter, perhaps, but one among many matters both small and big.

And here’s a really big one:

Smarter Balanced officials gave an example of a multi-part question in which high school students are asked to imagine they are the chief of staff for a congresswoman. Before they start working on the test, their teacher is supposed to lead

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Will the Real Common Core Please Stand Up?

While it’s all the rage these days, what is being called the Common Core — the proposed “voluntary” national standards to which many states will adhere (voluntarily) to align standards across borders –- is not really the original Common Core.

The original Common Core adheres to the notion that rich content matters, and that while states are squeezing more time into reading and math, there are actually subjects that teach them how to think “critically and imaginatively” about the world that are being overlooked. Says the Common Core mission statement:

We believe that a child who graduates from high school without an understanding of culture, the arts, history, literature, civics, and language has in fact been left behind. So to improve education in America, we’re promoting programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels that provide students with challenging, rigorous instruction in the full range of liberal arts and sciences.

We agree. Check out the information for teachers, administrators, and policymakers on how to do this on the original Common Core’s website.

So as the other Common Core winds its way through millions of dollars, staging, and processes that leave many questions unanswered, there are guides and resources like this one that can make standards come alive for kids and help them achieve, right now.

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