Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Common Core ... Testing Isn't the Solution to Our Education Woes ... Good Teachers Plus Hard Working, Curious and Productive Students Are Required

We hear lots of commentary about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the Common Core educational standards with respect to improving our students' academic performance compared to the rest of the world's students. That's missing the point.

Although knowledge gained through education and experience is the key to acquiring and maintaining our nation's competitive advantage and world leading standard of living for our citizens, Common Core won't make that happen. It's really that simple. In fact, the productivity of our teachers and students and the strength of our overall educational system are the keys to a successful result --- not a test or set of national standards.

Common Core Has a Central Problem is subtitled 'There is no evidence that raising standards produces better academic outcomes. What does Work? Having a good teacher:'

"Russ Whitehurst has a question for the Obama administration and other proponents of the Common Core education reforms: Where is your evidence that national standards in reading and math will produce better academic outcomes?

Mr. Whitehurst, an education scholar at the Brookings Institution, has been asking this question for some time. “The lack of evidence that better content standards enhance student achievement is remarkable given the level of investment in this policy and high hopes attached to it . . . . There is a rational argument to be made for good standards being a precondition for other desirable reforms, but it is currently just that—an argument. . . . The evidence is really quite strong that there is no correlation between the quality of standards that have been implemented in the past and student achievement,” he said. “You’ve got states like Massachusetts with high-quality standards and high achievement and states like California with high-quality standards and low achievement. The correlation is zero.”

In 2012 another Brookings scholar, Tom Loveless, compared state standards and standardized-test scores across the country and reached a similar conclusion. “The finding is clear,” he wrote in Education Week. “The quality of standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Education Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones."

The federal government is prohibited by law from endorsing or sanctioning curricula. Still, 44 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to Common Core. What the Obama administration lacked in hard data to back its scheme was made up for with hard cash. States were offered millions of dollars through federal grants to implement the initiative. Never mind that even federal studies have concluded that merely setting higher standards doesn’t lift student performance. At least three reports from the Education Department, including a 2008 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, have found no relationship between the difficulty of a state’s test and the level or change in student achievement. . . .

Mr. Whitehurst argues that policy makers would do better to focus on teacher quality and other reforms with a track record of improving student outcomes. “We know that teacher effectiveness is one thing that can make a huge difference,” he said. . . .

But the best argument against national standards may be the absence of evidence that they do any good. To that end, Common Core could join a long list of education fads and obsessions—class size, multiculturalism, per-pupil spending—that have little or no impact on learning.

Mr. Obama thinks the Common Core standards will be a boon for America’s children, though apparently not enough of a boon to subject his own children to them. The president and first lady send their daughters to private schools that will not be affected by Common Core. Better to experiment with other people’s children."

Summing Up

If I can't add, giving me a test to prove the point won't help me do any better in math -- same thing with reading.

Testing reveals what we know about what's being tested. That's all.

Good teaching helps us develop a curiosity to learn about the subject matter at hand and life in general.

And the best learning necessarily results from the individual student's decision to spend lots of time working hard doing so.

Time on task, curiosity and the habit of improvement combine to determine how much we will learn. That's another way to describe productivity, and that's something we need to emphasize very much.

Not the test.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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