By Scott Baker
In late spring, Bridge Magazine looked at data on college readiness in Michigan. It prompted a question:
Did the data analyzed by Bridge Magazine take into account poverty levels and their negative impact on student achievement? There are reams of research (i.e. Berliner 2009, Turkheimer 2003) demonstrating this. How will (another) new set of standards make any difference?
As a teacher for the past 20 years, I have witnessed the devastating effects of misguided education policies (actually thinly disguised "business" policies) inflicted upon students and teachers by politicians, at the behest of the corporate America. And now, after a decade of failed effort under NCLB comes Round Two: Race to the Top and The Common Core Standards.
I’ll save all of us lots of time and money, and tell you how this latest effort is going to turn out. Spoiler alert.
Teachers will spend many hours aligning curriculum to the Common Core Standards (just as we did when they were called Grade Level Content Objectives). We will attend many professional development sessions (just as we have been doing for years). We will attend multiple trainings on the latest "research-based" instructional methods (with the "research" often provided by the company selling the training, oddly enough). We will plan lessons and present them accordingly, and prepare our students for the latest form of the MEAP or the Smarter Balanced Assessment or whatever worthless (yet expensive) test Pearson Education Management conjures up.
And students will score on those tests just as they have before, demonstrating a near perfect correlation with their socioeconomic status. The results will then be used to bash public schools and make the case for for-profit charter schools. Again.
Those of us in the trenches see the damage that is currently being done to young people. I am, on a daily basis, witnessing the intellectual maiming of an entire generation of children being carried out in the name of the economy.
I mean this literally. Treating children as empty file cabinets simply to be stuffed with a "business approved" curriculum is inhuman. It results in a system of reward and punishment that might work for training circus animals, but is a lousy and counterproductive way to treat human beings. Meanwhile, the root cause of poor student achievement – poverty - is given lip-service or ignored completely.
Instead, we get greater government intrusion into the very serious business of raising our children. Both state and federal law recognize the right of parents to guide the education of their children, yet no one asked me, or any parent I know of, our opinion on the Common Core Standards, just as no asked us our thoughts on No Child Left Behind. We have simply been informed of it and are apparently expected to submit our children for the indoctrination planned and paid for by those caring folk at the National Business Roundtable.
A few powerful social Darwinists have confused their personal wealth with their personal worth. In a stunning display of hubris they have decided that they are the only worthy shepherds of the flock. In their view, the needs of the economy trump the natural (and legal) right of parents to direct the education of their children. We have since been buried in faux "research" meant to justify the takeover of our once vibrant and effective education system.
The results have been a lost decade in student achievement. Continued reform measures that shut out parents and teachers, while doing nothing to address the effects of poverty, are doomed to fail as well – spectacularly and expensively.