March 24, 2013 in Opinion

CCSSI untested, poorly conceived

Donald C. Orlich
 

In March 2010, governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, plus two territories and the District of Columbia, endorsed developing and implementing a common core of state standards for grades K-12 content areas. The Common Core State Standards Initiative just happens to be supported by Achieve, Business Roundtable, U. S. Chamber of Commerce, the U. S. Army and a host of other business and educational organizations

According to the writers of the CCSSI, seven considerations (arbitrary) guided their development. Keep in mind that the standards development really means that all high school students will be college-prepared.

One goal was to produce a set of fewer, clearer and higher standards so that any standard could be translatable to and teachable in the classroom. Evidence: The writers stated that CCSS “made unprecedented use of evidence” in deciding what to include – or not include – in each standard.

Do not let this consideration skip by without noting that in no case was there any field or pilot-testing of any standards in classrooms. What the writers call evidence and research simply comes down to opinions of individuals or organizations with all being footnoted.

Absolutely no experimental or control groups were used! There is no empirical evidence supporting the CCSSI. This point is most critical because once again we see a batch of brief enthusiasms and ideological advocacy labeled as research.

There are several examples.

Special populations: The standards are written with inclusionary language. Translation: The vendors of the CCSSI assume that the standards are accessible to different learners, but because the CCSSI were never field-tested prior to launch, the vendors do not have data to support the assertion.

Assessment: The CCSSI did not develop an assessment system. Translation: The vendors do state that these standards will ultimately be the basis for an assessment system that would a “national” assessment to monitor implementation. With most states agreeing on the final standards, testing is scheduled to begin in 2014 or 2015, depending on the state. Keep in mind these tests provide no feedback to either the students or the teachers. The tests are simply numbers!

Let me suggest you visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics labor projections. Most of the top-20 largest employing job fields do not require a Bachelor of Arts degree. So, again, caveat emptor!

Frankly Speaking: Let us be very frank: The CCSSI is no improvement over the plethora of state standards that now abound in the United States. These standards are lists of performance objectives. However, in no case is there a map that illustrates the hierarchical manner in which a school district could convert the standards into a curriculum.

For scores of years, textbooks tended to be the basic curriculum materials. At least the textbooks have a sense of logical progression. The CCSSI vendors tend to assume that curriculum will be developed either by the respective states or school districts, or both. Curriculum development is no easy chore. It is a tedious job. That is the basic reason that school districts adopt textbook series, since those materials tend to provide a sense of development and progression, albeit sometimes not ideally, within a specific content area.

The CCSSI is intuitively developed. There just may be a subversive wish that public schools will fail, and the private sector will then “save the children” from those awful public “hobgoblins.”

Donald Orlich is a professor emeritus at Washington State University and co-author, with C. Tienken, of “The School Reform Landscape: Fraud, Myth, and Lies.”


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