Monday, April 11, 2016

The Common Core

The Rotten Core


Spring is time for high-stakes tests under the Common Core State Standards for public K-12 school students in the United States. This leaves teachers with scant time to impart critical thinking to students, a harm to democracy, or rule of the people.
We can thank a “teach to the test” approach to learning and teaching for this attack on democracy. The assault has a history.
On that note, teachers played no part in establishing the CCSS. These circumstances speaks volumes about democracy and public K-12 school education.
The origin of the CCSS points to the Council of Chief State Officers (CCSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). These entities hold the copyright for the CCSS, and are subject to zero public accountability.
“The national command center of this corporate-based education reform movement is located in the quasi-governmental agencies of the CCSO and the NGA,” according to an editorial in the March edition of Monthly Review, “both consisting of governmental officials but functioning outside political jurisdictions as private, non-governmental organizations.”

Corporations are not legally responsible to the public. Corporate fiduciary responsibility is to shareholders, not to the public, bad news for democracy.
Moreover, the CCSS is pressuring teachers to prepare students to score high on tests. As a result, teachers have less time to enlarge the critical thinking skills of students.
The business interests that benefit from the CCSS laugh all the way to the bank. Take David Coleman, the architect of the copyrighted CCSS.
Coleman is a non-teacher. In that respect, he is similar to many Democrats and GOPsters in the mis-named public K-12 school reform movement.
Apparently, a lack of teacher experience is no obstacle to becoming an education reformer. What is wrong with this picture?
Education reformers’ central concept is that the best way to operate public K-12 schools is to run them like private firms. In short, business knows best, due to its focus on benefits and costs, prices and profits, e.g., the bottom line.
If such mentality about public K-12 schools were a comedy skit, then laugh away, I say. Laughter is healthy for everybody.
Such is not the case, however. Education reform more resembles a tragedy for learning and teaching about democracy.
Coleman’s company, Student Achievement Partners, composed and promoted the CCSS in conjunction with the NGA and the CCSO, writes Mercedes K. Schneider, a blogger and public school classroom teacher in her book A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Education (2014).
“CCSS is top-down reform, which kills creativity in the classroom,” according to her. “It is also test-centered—further death to creativity and promoter of fear to pass CCSS-related tests.”
Henry A. Giroux unpacks the culture of this reform in America’s Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016). Forcefully, he in part critiques how the prosperous few via education reform are shaping the learning and teaching experiences of the struggling many.
The CCSS is rotten, and indicates a troubled past and troubling present for reforming public K-12 schools stateside. At our historical moment, we need education reform that adds not subtracts the teaching and learning of critical thinking.
Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2016

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