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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: July 10, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 28

NO OSCAR, YET. Finally, the state of Maine enacted a charter school law, with collective applause from around the country. But, it’s too soon to give the state star status in the charter school world. CER’s Alison Consoletti, vice president for research, told the Kennebec Journal, in a strong article on Maine’s foray into charters, that the state’s Charter School Commission, appointed by the State Board of Education with three members overlapping between both boards, does not pass muster. “If you have the strong, independent authorizers, they can hold the charters accountable,” explains Consoletti. “So the schools tend to be higher quality and better managed.” Consoletti also points out that the state’s law is so new, it is unclear precisely what the climate will be to instill flexibility and accountability in charters statewide. “All we really have to go on is what the law says,” according to Consoletti. “While some pieces, like the funding, seem to be better than average, it’s still difficult to see until a charter school is open how funding flows; how the law is going to work.” Calling on Maine charter fans to do what it takes to ensure a strong charter program is created and maintained with appropriate authorizers.

BOOOORING. Students nationwide are not challenged by school. Yes, there is a sliver of kids stressed out over mountains of homework, seeking the Holy Grail of an Ivy League education, but, in general, students say they are not expected to rise to higher standards in the classroom, according to a study just released by the Center for American Progress titled “Do Schools Challenge Our Students.” Pivotal in the survey of students is an “increasing be that student surveys can provide important insights into a teacher’s effectiveness.” The report’s authors, Ulrich

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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.

How low can you go?

Congratulations go out to Detroit Public Schools who seem to have finagled a bailout from a friendly state legislature. Surely the Michigan House of Representatives has much to admire about their largest school district – dismal achievement scores, distressing drop out rates and mismanaged budgets on a scale even a Wall Street bank executive could admire.

So, in the face of all that accomplishment, and with nothing else seeming to occupy their legislative agenda, what could responsible elected officials do other than reward DPS?

1) Allow for more choice and educational opportunity for Detroit children and their parents.

2) Tighten financial accountability to ensure money is going where it should.

3) Throw more money and resources at the problem in hopes that it will go away. 

House Democrats have seen fit to lower the standards of what defines a “first class school district” from 100,000 students to 60,000 students, allowing for continued funding and other perks.

One perk the teachers’ union has fought for is blocking charter school growth in the city. With a current enrollment of just over 94,000 kids, Detroit is poised to lose its “first class” standing under current law. Without a legislative re-definition, the restriction on community colleges authorizing new charter schools would be lifted.

The House may consider the new definition of a “first class school district” today, and with a party line vote expected, congratulations to DPS and the teachers’ union on your victory. If you lower expectations enough, perhaps one day you will be seen as successful.

Keep up the good work.


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