Posts Tagged ‘Common Core State Standards’

Now what?

Sunday, November 20th, 2016
independent reading in a diverse elementary classroom in California

independent reading in a diverse elementary classroom in California

The election is over and the president-elect is not known to think much about schools. However, one of the president elect’s well-known campaign assertions is about to take effect: getting rid of gun-free zones.

In California, the state with some of the toughest gun safety measures in the nation, Kern High School District School Board in Bakersfield, home of famed House of Representatives majority whip Kevin McCarthy, can and has approved 3 to 2 to allow teachers and staff to carry concealed guns. In total 4 high school districts and one unified school district in the conservative counties of the state have sanctioned concealed carry.

Other than that, nothing has been heard except rumor that Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of Washington, D.C. public schools, may be appointed to head the United States Department of Education.

On the other hand, as reported in the Take Care post of 7/2016 the USDOE may be gone. Pfft! Since it wastes money, harbors fraud, and embraces bureaucratic regulation.

The president-elect may be too busy trying to find like-minded cabinet members. Jeff Sessions, up for approval to be attorney general, will not likely be a protector of education rights. Beginning with what is known about his position on immigration, no wonder high school and college students continue demonstrating day after day. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, is in jeopardy for all the students who crossed the border with their parents when young and who thought they may have a chance to become legal residents of the United States. And elementary students, K-5, spend their days when they should be learning, worrying instead if they will be deported along with their parent.

The day after the election, teachers felt the need to stop academics and spend time on values – no bullying, no name-calling, no writing slurs, no shoving or hitting, no ostracizing – all actions that were on television and radio all during the campaign. The few words from the president-elect hasn’t stopped the action in the streets.

From the Archbishop of Los Angeles to the Chief of Police of New York, city governments felt obligated to speak out that they would not support deportation by ICE. Still, schools are one of the first places that worry is displayed.

Some teachers have used written language time for students to write opinion essays: Why the man who won should/should not be President. Other classes used time to discuss why in a democracy one must respect the outcome. Students are taking part in Project Cornerstone which asks the students to think in terms of “up-standards” – looking for the positive ways to approach an outcome with which you disagree.

Views of the vice president-elect make it difficult to expect a generous outcome when the administration finally gets around to any thought about public schools. A man who as Congressman and governor never supported a bill that he thought led to “federal intrusion,” also thinks Common Core State Standards are intrusive on the state, and prefers charter schools (good or bad) and vouchers. He is not likely to advocate spending effort or money on federal funding for schools.

Good bye Title I funding for low-income public schools, farewell to Title IX that assures fair sports funding and prohibits gender harassment, and exit now to Title II that provides funding for highly-qualified teachers and administrators.

In addition, since the start of the great recession in 2008 until 2016, 23 states have cut taxes and so cut funding to education, a position that suggests deliberate policy. Three of those states had initiatives on the 2016 ballot, but only Maine voters passed its initiative. Of the other 27 states, only California and Oregon had measures on the ballot. California passed both measures, a substantial bond measure and an extension of the special tax on high incomes. Oregon voters didn’t pass its initiative.

This brings us to the point that everybody loves to criticize schools, but if states won’t provide funding, the federal government must step up. It’s “the duty of the executive branch to ensure, through regulation and supervision,” (New York Times, “Schoolchildren Left Behind”, November 12, 2016) that funding supports schools with students most in need. A public-school-minded executive branch must pressure the conservative members of Congress who are well-known for efforts to cut Title I funding.

Who will teachers point to as models of tolerance and advocates for public education, one of the most basic foundations of our civil society since the days of the Puritans?



Compare Education Views of 2016 Presidential Candidates

Friday, July 29th, 2016

No doubt, no time to linger over the education positions of the presidential candidates for the November elections: the new school year approaches. So, scan this summary.

Donald Trump, GOP candidate, has only a video issues website. In talk, he sticks to education points he has made since 2000. There is too much money, waste, fraud, and abuse in school systems and in the United States Department of Education. It’s not clear what he refers to when he says ‘abuse’ – cruel disciplinary punishment in schools (some evidence exists) or funding abuse.

He threatens to cut the Department of Education because it is a federal body, and it set up the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that he wants to get rid of. Education should be managed through each local, not the federal, government (i.e. the state). However, The Washington Post’s article by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, 2/2/2016, reminds us that the CCSS was crafted by bipartisan state governors and school chiefs (with major funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and the decision for states to adopt was voluntary – so it is already a local choice, not federal.

He does know about for-profit higher education, as we’ve all heard. He is likely to desire loosening regulations for accreditation, although he has not approached the higher education issue since word has spread about his attempt at a for-profit college. Also, Trump is opposed to ‘gun-free’ zones on school campuses and, last, he has come out against unions.


One can read in depth about Hillary Clinton’s education plans. The most written about is her proposal for higher education students to reduce debt from loans and tuition fees. A student from a family making $85,000 will be compensated to go to a four-year institution by 2017, and a student from a family making $125,000 by 2021. It is proposed to make community college tuition free. States must invest, colleges and universities must account for student success and low tuition. In addition to money for minority student colleges, all proposals will be paid for by limiting tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.

For K-12 education, the most valuable programs are to modernize teacher preparation, support, and pay; to use a “Modernize Every School bond” to provide capital for infrastructure needs: energy efficiency, asbestos removal, science labs, and high-speed broadband; and to provide universal pre-school and child care investments for which parents pay less than 10% of their income.


Now, Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice-Presidential running mate, has one neutral education position: he voted against No Child Left Behind (because of federal intrusion) before the standards were seen as impossible. When he became governor in 2012, he got rid of CCSS to which his predecessor had agreed. He insisted the standards were a federal intrusion. Then he turned around and spent money to devise Indiana’s own standards, suspiciously similar to CCSS. Because of turmoil about CCSS-based testing Mr. Pence paid for a new test based on the Indiana standards. Everyone complained and so another test is being designed to use in 2018. Is this expensive or what?

The governor has been a full-throated supporter of charter schools and school vouchers. A second good thing is he started pre-school programs, but dancing around his dislike of federal money, grant applications have been written, pulled, and submitted again, destabilizing anything good for schools. In addition, he has slashed public school funds in order to pay for corporate tax exemptions.


What can Clinton’s Vice-Presidential candidate Tom Kaine bring to the ticket? His emphasis has always been civil rights, but as governor he is known for the gun safety laws he pushed through the legislature after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Also he pushed for high quality pre-K accessibility. He opposes school vouchers. In the Senate, he wrote a bill to extend the interest rate cuts for college student loans and increase in tuition assistance at the state level.

On July 27, 2016, Vice-President Joe Biden reminded voters that “Being a teacher is not what you do, it’s what you are.” That is how Take Care Schools looks at the candidates – to see who is supporting what you are.

Advocating for Pre-K 

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

The final days of yearly tests approach and schools look for student achievement progress under the Common Core State Standards.

Many teachers, mainly in states using Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessments, better known as PARRC, complain about the weight of the tests toward accountability of school success. Some parents in those states are fed up with testing and continue to opt-out so their students miss school on test days.

At the same time, a growing set of studies advocate the need for universal pre-kindergarten as a means of preparing children so that when they attend elementary, middle, and high school they can succeed in every part of the school year.

It is also true, however, that not all states can assure parents of successful high quality pre-K programs.

After two years of legislation in the California government, the first bill was vetoed and the second bill is, as of this moment, mired in the appropriations committee, i.e., $$$.

In California, approximately 22,000 children, mainly at low-income funded sites, attend Head Start, Early Start, and state pre-schools and transitional kindergarten to prepare for later academic success. That leaves, currently, 34,000 eligible children without a program. Remember, these numbers reflect California, but the numbers country-wide average the same.

Why should the 34,000 eligible for access have a place to go? The studies provide evidence that those students over all have increased cognition, social, language (especially English Language Development), and emotional development skills – that is, they’re ready for academics. They are less likely to enter the juvenile justice system. More likely to graduate from high school. Incarceration and welfare costs decrease. Above all, parents of and students who do well in school are more likely to move out of poverty.

In Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley economics dominate, pockets of families do not have the resources to send their 4-year-old children to pre-school. There are not enough locations in the areas where eligible children live. The state doesn’t yet provide enough resources to upgrade sites and fund teachers in the seven major school districts in the county. Some major cities manage to provide limited support of $5,000 per child for programs.

The Santa Clara county Office of Education is sponsoring Strong Start to galvanize a coalition of co-sponsors including six school districts, five early education foundations, six non-profit foundations, League of Women Voters, the 6th District PTA, and endorsed by Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, Edsource, the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, the early learning agenda advocated by the President of the United States. All to expand access to and increase investment in pre-K for all children in the county.

The main obstacle is the $$$. A Public Policy Institute of California survey shows that 68% of Californians feel it’s very important to provide pre-K to promote success in higher grades; 76% overall feel that public funds should be spent on the effort; and almost one-half of the respondents had no children under 18 at home.

Nevertheless, another PPIC question about affordability showed concern that the cost exceeds public college costs and worry about moving California budget surplus funds to support the plan. The first legislation for pre-K expansion was vetoed by Governor Brown because he states the state education budget makes revisions and any change should be made in that process.

On Friday, May 13, 2016, Governor Brown released the revised budget which must be completed by June 15 for 2016-17. Although in January the impression was that the budget could increase early learning and childcare, on Friday the governor wanted to hold the line on new programs and boost the monies to the state’s cash reserves.

On the side, it has been stated that the governor also thinks that parents should be in charge of their children until they enter school.

Let’s see our dollars well-spent! We know testing is time-consuming and can be useless. Assessments aren’t needed to see that some schools are struggling – we know that too. Tests should be analyzed to see what’s working and make further improvements.

And dollars spent to help students and families step up to better lives is worthwhile. Money should provide access to early learning for young children, ahead of their regular days in school, so their assessments and future can improve.




From K on Up

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

The usual uproar has resounded in the media since the latest scores for high-stakes once-a-year testing have been released. Which state has more students at Level 3 (meets the standard)? Which has more at Level 1 (not meeting the standard)? As if, that is all that counts. I hope not.

The first error of media talk is to call the results “Common Core Scores.” Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of learning standards devised to better organize what students in the United States learn by the time they graduate from high school. CCSS is not a test/assessment/exam. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) states have designed an assessment to see how well students have achieved as they go through twelve years of learning. Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) has also developed an assessment that some states use. It is misleading to call them Common Core tests. How about “test questions aligned with CCSS” or “test questions based on standards of CCSS”?

Second, the conflict is over the test that is used, not the standards. And part of the furor is over who takes the test. Should Kindergarteners take the test? No. Should twelfth graders take the exam. No, they are taking SAT, AP exams, ACT. They’ve already learned what they are going to learn. Schools should focus on making sure those kids graduate and maybe go to college.

Third, what do the scores show? In California, overall, students did better on the English Language Arts assessment than the Math in this year’s 2015 test which the state calls the baseline to compare with the old STAR yearly exam, baseline 2003. Have all states released their outcomes? No. They are arguing about them. Instead, the issue should be to analyze how different aggregates of students did and then adjust the school/district/state curriculum to improve.

Next, why are parents and teachers upset? Because states are using the scores to evaluate teachers as well as students and calling them low-performing. I say, you don’t need tests to know how teachers or students are performing. You should use tests only to help teachers understand how to improve the curriculum; to help students get tutoring; to create small classes with more than one teacher to work with them. For example, a representative of the non-profit Californians Together says the tests can identify English Language Learners in order to find effective programs to help increase their English learning.

Last, why are schools/districts/states obsessing over a once-a-year method of assessing students? And throwing it out and starting over in hopes of getting better outcomes? If a better process was set up to train teachers; to oversee schools; to provide help for students in need; to spend time during the school year for teachers to use smaller formative assessment that allows for curriculum adaptation during the year; I feel you would see the opportunity for critical thinking, problem solving, analytical writing — the goals of CCSS.

From Kindergarten on up the gap in students’ knowledge across the country would slowly shrink.



Rethink Teacher Training

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
high-achieving suburban high school

 suburban high school

I just heard about XQ: The Super School Project, funded through the Emerson Collective founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ wife. The XQ campaign sets out to inspire teachers, administrators, and education leaders from all sectors to rethink high school. Ms. Powell Jobs says, “The [current] system was created for the work force we needed 100 years ago.” As has been noted in this blog, there are many incredible, but incremental, changes occurring right now, but nothing is coordinated throughout the country except Common Core State Standards (CCSS). And even the standards have received abundant criticism.

As is stated in the news article I read (“A Campaign to Establish High Schools for a New Era” by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, September 14, 2015), the project is looking for efforts to alter school schedules, revise curriculum strategies, and use technology, each of which has already been happening across the country. But to upgrade and change high schools, workable projects must be devised to be eligible for funding by XQ.

One has been able to read about improving outcomes in high school for a long time. To think about what must happen to make improvement occur, start with teacher training. Daniel T. Willingham ( New York Times Opinion article “Teachers Aren’t Dumb,” September 9, 2015) addresses the need for change in each college and university’s teacher education program. As any teacher can agree, most courses for credential or degree stress pedagogy on theories of instruction or theory of child development. Mr. Willingham stresses, however, that a good teacher knows the subject/s and how to teach it so that students learn it. If you teach beginning readers, explicit knowledge of literacy concepts is important. If you teach middle school mathematics, it is important to take math classes which, for example, teach techniques for drawing analogies that explain math ideas. So, before XQ projects will succeed, the teacher must be knowledgeable about the subjects they teach. So let’s watch for university education departments to upgrade their curriculum.

A great deal of emphasis for school success relates to parent involvement in the school. However, Karen L. Mapp from the Harvard Graduate School of Education feels it is more important to teach school staff members how to communicate with parents, especially across racial and socio-economic divides. In addition, Keith Robinson at the University of Texas, Austin, and Angel L. Harris from Duke University have analyzed surveys of parents and found that the biggest impact of parents on learning was if they expected that their student would go to college.

At this moment, I can cite two examples that may help in the design of a worthy project. Recently, Glass Lab’s Paula Escuadra explained how the innovative maker of learning games based on the use of computers has opened in 6000 middle schools across the country. Designed to provide an “ecosystem of learning” engrossing low and high performing students, the model addresses both English/Language Arts and math/technology.  Glass lab uses standards from CCSS which are available and encouraged to help students think critically and problem solve. XQ, here we come.

Schools are being asked to encourage parent participation. Whether in school committees or just reminding students to learn for college, the model associated with this blog may help. Called “Take Care!” the DVD program helps school staff learn positive ways to communicate with each other and especially with parents. Interested? Look at the website and then get in touch with me at Please put TakeCare in the subject line.

Speaking at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday September 14, 2015, President Obama said good words for teachers, bombarded on all sides to “do better” for kids.

“If you hear a candidate say the big problem with education is the teachers, you should not vote for that person. It is a hard job, and it is the most important job we’ve got, and folks who go into teaching don’t go into it for the money. They go into it because they’re passionate about kids.”

Passionate? Find out about XQ: The Super School Project, and Glass Lab, and Take Care! Go to the head of the class!