Anything you can do I can do better - Annie Get Your Gun - Betty Hutton and Howard Keel


Mike Petrilli of Fordham latest piece appears to be his attempt to tell the opponents of common core that he understands us. He concedes the point of federal involvement in the standards (which Fordham has done before). He admits that the standards aren’t “the best” and even acknowledges that there are a number of text book suppliers who are making a mess of them. But there is one glaring problem with his concession piece – he simultaneously agrees that states can set standards and claims that states are no good at setting standards.

The CC standards have been sold to the public (once CSSI et al were forced to actually contend with the public) as necessary because so many states had poor quality standards, even after NCLB forced them to review, clarify and improve their standards.

“I find that the pros far outweigh the cons, beginning with the original Fordham conclusion that the standards themselves, on their merits, are superior in content and rigor to those that three-quarters of the states were using in 2010.”

See, 3/4 of the states, though charged with developing high quality standards, were incompetent to do so, therefore we needed some smart group of outsiders to do it for us.

But then just a few paragraphs later he says the standards are basically the floor and that they are counting on states to augment the standards to improve them.

“Yes, they can absolutely be improved. That’s why we’re supportive of what states like Florida have done to augment the standards… Creating additional standards for high-achieving math students who are gunning for selective colleges and/or STEM careers makes a ton of sense.”

So states like Florida who had bad standards with NCLB and whose governor you wrote felt it important to join with the governor of Illinois to develop better standards together, is now deemed qualified enough to improve these jointly developed standards on their own. Which is it Mike?  Are the states qualified to write their own standards or not?

If they are able to write their own and identify their own shortcomings, then why did we need a nationally developed set of standards in the first place?

Much of the rest of his article completely overlooks how the standards were eventually sold to the public.

“They are fewer and clearer.” If they are fewer because they left out pieces that states are now expected to fill in, what was the benefit of having fewer standards? If they are clearer, then why are so many text book suppliers completely botching the lesson plans? “But some publishers have totally botched it, misreading the standards and/or creating materials that are vastly more complicated than they need to be.”

“They are high quality college and career ready standards.” Except that they won’t make kids ready for college STEM. That you were supposed to figure out on your own and fix. Chris Nicastro was right when she said they were the floor and you said in your piece that the danger was that states would consider them the ceiling, but until the grassroots stepped in to complain, they were pretty much being sold as the ceiling.

A big part of the problem with common core is how they were brought into the states and sold to the public. As we have said here in MO all along, our biggest concern is with process. When you run a sneaky process, behind closed doors, around the legislature, then you establish yourself as an untrustworthy agent. CCSSI’s biggest problem right now is that they lack credibility and the best spin doctors out there will tell you, trust is 100x harder to regain once it has been lost.

As for Missouri simply rebranding the standards you again miss the point. We are well aware that our opponents will seek to stack the work groups with pro CC agents. The critical part for so many proponents of CC is the common part which is why they will fight to the death to keep them as common as possible, not as good as possible. We also know that there’s only so much word smithing you can do to describe how 8 year olds should be able to add and subtract through 20 in a unique way, so some of the standards that come out of our work groups may well look like CC. And lastly we concede that our math standards needed improvement. Even James Milgram had positive things to say about some of the CC math.

But what we have ditched is so much more important. We no longer have a private group or federal government limiting what else we can teach to only 15%. We have names and faces of the people who gave us the standards, public hearings during the development process, and a process which can be activated, if we find (as we already are with CC) that too many of our children are being labelled developmentally delayed and overflowing our special education teacher’s workloads because we have made the standards developmentally inappropriate, to correct our mistake. This was missing with CCSSI. The other advantage we get is that we only have to convince the people in our own state’s work group to change the standards, not some NGO and 49 other state’s chief state school officers. An individual state will be much more nimble.

The grassroots/parents are awake and paying attention. They are learning where the pressure points are and will use them if their children continue to be confused, depressed or angry about going to school because of what and how they are being taught. Our college professors are awake and paying attention. They don’t like being cut out of the process that determines what their incoming students should know. They have also seen their departments pressured to revised their course sequence and make remedial classes part of the regular sequence which puts their degree students even farther behind (in addition to being a sneaky way to get remediation rates to drop.)  And we have decided, which you apparently have not, that we have the expertise in our state to write our own standards in toto.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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