Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Test to rule them all, One Test to find them, One Test to bring them all and to the Standards bind them

No matter how bad things get in education, there have always struck me as three escape hatches for bright but languishing kids:

1. Standardized, independent tests like the SATs and the ACTs, which, as normed aptitude tests, help colleges see through the often distorted images of student abilities given by grades and teacher recommendations.

2. The competition between the SATs and the ACTs, which, should current education fads start to affect one testing company, theoretically motivates the other one to resist these fads in order to tap into the resulting market of fad-bucking students.

3. Home schooling.

But as Paula Bolyard writes in a recent post on Pajamas Media, all three are being threatened by the insidious influence of the Common Core standards:

Many homeschooling families believe that they can remain insulated from the effects of the unpopular Common Core curriculum by maintaining control of their curriculum in their home...
Unfortunately, Common Core, if it continues to be adopted by states across the country, can and will trickle down into private schools and homeschools. Those of us who have had the experience of sending our kids to college know the importance of standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, especially for homeschoolers who sometimes lack other academic credentials that colleges require...
As it turns out, these tests are not only working closely with those designing and advocating the Common Core, but they are now redesigning their tests to align with it.
Yes, the Common Core Standards are "voluntary." But it's states, not parents, that decide whether to adopt them. And yes, the Common Core Standards are "merely guidelines" that "don't dictate curricula or pedagogy." But as I've argued earlier, this very vagueness has had the effect of further enabling current fads.

And the more these fads penetrate what once were independent aptitude tests, the more they diminish the educational options of bright, eccentric, fad-bucking students.


Anonymous said...

One might worry that the common core spells the end to homeschooling. Once every school teaches the same curriculum, won't case law support insisting that the comparable thoroughness and efficiency of homeschooling can only be achieved by following the same curriculum?

I think it's the private schools that save our bacon here. They're not going to up and go common core. We have private schools here that are older than the institution of public school. They're not going to give up their traditions. As long as they hold the line on an alternative, we can fit in the spread somewhere.

The most frightening part, surely, is Coleman coming into the leadership of the College Board, where he intends to dismantle the SAT.

"Coleman’s most radical idea is to redesign the SAT, transforming it from an aptitude test intended to control for varying levels of school quality, to a knowledge test aligned with the Common Core."

I don't know how independent schools and homeschoolers will respond to that. Perhaps the SAT will fall by the wayside and we will use different tests. Perhaps the ACT will hold out and continue to measure aptitude rather than regurgitation.

The source article for the PJ column is very interesting:

It comes to some of the same conclusions I regularly support - we need more vocational education and preparation for different courses, not the one size fits all system of Common Core.

This battle isn't over, and, as before, we can expect support from unusual quarters.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Anon-- Reading the CCSI pages-- the Common Core isn't really a CURRICULUM. For instance, the Standards for Kindergarten literature include things like "Asking questions about a story. Describing illustrations. Identifying what an author does."

There's no book list. No list of works to be covered. Not even a "Works from X regions and Y time periods."

The CCSI appear to be a list of generic, vague 'skills' totally divorced from content. Which means there's still no 'national curriculum" and that schools and teachers will still vary.

It's all 21st Century skills in a new package. There's no there there.

Auntie Ann said...

Not all private schools are old-school. Many started in the 60's and 70's and had a modern flair from the start. I would guess, the further west you go, into the newer parts of the country, you have fewer and fewer of the old-school privates. There are plenty of non-academic, "nurturing" schools out there which will be more than happy to use CC.

This is actually a major challenge to many private schools. If they use, or don't even rise to the level of, the common core; and if parents can get the core for free at public schools, what are parents paying for?

One of our kids is in one that uses CC as only a guideline (which, in this case, means they don't even expect to achieve that level of competency.) The school really hasn't begun addressing it's existential crisis yet.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Auntie Ann--- Where are you findinf the Core Standards online? The ones at

don't really look like much.

Auntie Ann said...

California posts its standards, which currently are CC:

California Dept of Ed Content Standards

1crosbycat said...

A friend of mine was extremely concerned when she discovered her private, Catholic school is aligning with Common Core and we discovered that the governing body for Catholic education in the U.S. is mandating it. So she started this website just a month or so ago. Here is a link with good info, some mainly Catholic related regarding social issues, but much good, well-explained info on Common Core and its impact.

My private (non-Catholic) school will not willingly comply with Common Core, but when all the textbooks and standardized tests - not only SATs but the IOWAs and Stanford and others used by private schools - is aligning with Common Core already even before the public became aware of this, it is essentially coming down on every kid in America. And when CC does not prepare for college in areas like math and skip over the classics of literature, among many other things, you can see why federal control of education is and should be unconstitutional.

Anonymous said...

There's a fine line they're walking here. If they really align the SAT with Common Core, they may succeed only at making it irrelevant to colleges.