Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Get Ready For Some Common Core Word Soup

Ranging off topic here, go ahead and skip this if you like.... but I saw on Twitter that one of the big Common Core people is giving a little talk in the neighborhood soon.

It's in Arlington Heights.

Sometimes people think I'm a CTU loyalist, but the truth is, I'm not in the CTU and I disagree with them on a lot of things. The Common Core, for example. As far as I can tell, the CTU is pretty much on board with the Common Core.

I myself am a skeptic, and my skepticism comes from having taught 8th grade English for over 20 years before moving on to my fabulous current life of not writing comments on papers every single night of my life.

Anyway, Ms. Alberti is pretty much going to give this talk, which as I listen to it again, I have come to understand as being completely untrue in almost every respect.

One of the great ironies-- and there are many--- of the CCSS movement is that one of its pillars is this manufactured horror that teachers are asking kids questions that aren't text-dependent. You hear it over and over. Humorously, one of the questioners asks Ms. Alberti in this very presentation (toward the end) how she arrived at her assertion that fully 70% of teacher questions aren't text-dependent. She doesn't know. Indeed, she encourages the questioner to look it up for herself/himself.

Anyway, that's not even the ironic part. The ironic part is that whenever you ask a CCSS enthusiast to describe how a particular CCSS is somehow better than the pre-existing Illinois Learning Standard, that individual can't name a single standard! Try it sometime.

So much for text-dependent. My own theory is that whoever (whomever?*) made up the 70% figure never spent enough time in a school to find the copy room--- where you can find reams of leftover study guides that ask page after page after page of the mind-numbing, text-dependent questions that cause such squeals of ecstasy in CCSS circles. Evidently we will all be career ready when the "best practice"in teacher questions will be easily purchased from Perfection Learning. (Remember those study guides? I used to wait by the mailbox for them to show up when I was a rookie.)

Please, please listen to the above webinar.  I suppose that if you're a person who hasn't been in the business for a long time, the words coming out of Ms. Alberti's mouth might sound as if they comprise the verbiage of an argument, in the aggregate. The truth is, they don't.

If you've been in the business a while, what you realize is that here's another individual who just invented teaching and is going to let you know how it's done. I've never met her, but she's definitely a shooting star. Look at this work history (and this is as specific as I can find)

Prior to working at the state level Sandra held several district-level positions including school superintendent, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, principal, subject area supervisor and high school science teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Biology from Rutgers University and masters and doctorate degrees in Educational Leadership from Rowan University.

The woman is my age, I'm guessing, or younger.  What I've learned if anything is that the people having an actual impact on the children in any given community are the people who stick around and build programs. Perhaps she's one of them; it's hard to tell. But there are shooting stars everywhere. Bill Gates finds them and funds them, and they fly around the country being comprehensive experts on everything. And the people who are actually doing the heavy lifting are staying in school districts over a career, getting better with time, practice, and reflection.

What an expert I was myself after three years! I knew everything. You would have to call in Michelle Rhee to shut me up (she would of course have tape for the purpose.)

By the way, as a little fun fact, Ms. Rowan earned her masters and doctorate in Ed Leadership from Rowan University--- a school that is itself ironically in the sites of another reformy arm of the Gates nebula, the National Council on Teacher Quality.  In 2011, the then-provost of Rowan refused even to participate in the NCTQ data project because he knew that it was bullshit and that it would target Rowan with some obnoxious label or other.

Much like the test data coming off the new CCSS-based assessments will be doing for public school teachers across the land pretty soonish. So, you know, all of these things are brilliant until you find yourself staring down the barrel of one of them.

Anyway, please have a listen to the whole thing. And if you go to the thing up in Arlington Heights, and you're interested in being a critical thinker rather than a potted plant, keep raising your hand and asking, "How do you know that?"

Lots more to write, but I'm not a blogger any more. There isn't a two-minute stretch of this presentation where I don't want to make a footnote pointing out the weirdness or contradiction, or the just plain wrongfulness of the thing.

And remember, nobody knows the cost of the CCSS adoption. It is impossible to say with even any remote kind of precision how much of a boondoggle this is all going to be in the end. In the immortal words of State Superintendent of Education, Christopher Koch, in referring to the budget:

                    You will note that there is not a line devoted to Common Core implementation. 

To be fair, he later predicts that it's very likely that states will save money by adopting the CCSS, a prediction that will turn out to be even less true than "the war in Iraq will pay for itself," if you ask anyone paying attention.

*I jest above, but truly, the whole who/whom thing is a CCSS standard in 4th grade. And I shit you not about that. I used to have pitched battles with my colleagues about how to approach this topic with 8th graders.

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