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Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2013

Survey shows public skeptical about school testing, Common Core standards

August 22, 2013

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A national survey released this week shows a growing disconnect between the American public and the education policies being adopted in most states, including Kansas.

That's especially true about the new Common Core standards for reading and math that are going into effect in Kansas and 44 other states, as well as the increased use of standardized tests to measure how well schools and districts are performing.

The survey by Gallup and PDK International showed nearly two-thirds of those interviewed had never heard of the Common Core standards, and fewer than half believed they would help make the United States more competitive globally, one of the key stated goals of the project.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of those surveyed said the increased use of standardized tests to measure student performance had either hurt American education or made no difference at all. Only 22 percent said they believe increased testing has improved public schools.

That presents a huge challenge for state and local education officials who are now working to put the new Common Core standards into effect, apparently in the face of widespread public skepticism.

“Americans support certain key ideals or goals, but don't understand the programs or initiatives being pursued to improve student achievement,” said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International, a professional association of educators formerly known as Phi Delta Kappa. “Our local and national leaders must do a better job of explaining what they're doing and why.”

Similar local sentiments

Jennifer Roth, whose two daughters attend Pinckney school in Lawrence, said she agrees with most of those findings, especially when it comes to standardized tests.

“I'm just not clear on what that data gets used for,” Roth said. “And not knowing what the purpose or the end use of this data is, it's troubling when you consider the amount of time and pressure it puts on students and teachers.”

That may not be surprising, considering most of the standardized testing has no impact on any individual student's grades, or their ability to be promoted or to graduate. The tests are required under state and federal law to measure how well the schools and districts are performing, to determine their eligibility for federal funding and state accreditation.

Starting this year in Lawrence — and next year in most other districts in the state — test scores also will be used as one of many factors in teacher evaluations, which can affect decisions about contract renewal and tenure.

But Roth said she has a little more faith than most people in the PDK/Gallup survey in the new Common Core standards and their ability to improve student outcomes.

As an active member of the Pinckney PTO, Roth said she has heard of the Common Core standards, although she concedes she doesn't know many specifics about them. But unlike many other Americans, she's willing to put her faith in the education experts who are recommending them.

“Yeah, I think that if you have a host of educational experts at various levels, and they say that this is the way that 21st century education should go, then I'm going to put a lot of stock in that and say that's the direction we ought to move in,” Roth said.

Challenge for state leaders

Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said she believes reactions like Roth's are closer to the norm in Kansas, although she was surprised by the polling numbers showing such low public awareness of the Common Core standards.

For the past several months at State Board of Education meetings, DeBacker and members of the board have faced a steady stream of people speaking out against Common Core standards. Many of them argue, incorrectly, that the standards are a federal mandate and that they require the collection of massive amounts of personal data about students and their families.

“And that's what the frustrating part isfor me, is that if you start visiting with somebody who is opposed to Common Core, and you start asking them specific questions (such as), 'What do you think a fourth grader should know in math?' they're surprised that that's exactly what's in the fourth-grade standards,” DeBacker said.

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  • Comments

    Sam Crow 8 months ago

    So, many in the public are skeptical about the Common Core standards?

    Maybe a little historical perspective might help explain why.

    In the 60’s the education establishment forced the concept of “new math” on America. It revolutionized the way math was to be taught. When parents expressed their concerns, they were told to sit down and shut up and let the professionals take care of it. A half generation of kids having math skills was lost before the concept was declared a dismal failure.

    In the 80’s the education establishment decided “open classrooms” was the key. New schools were built without physical walls, and older schools actually had walls removed to conform to the concept. Again, parents questioned the logic of the philosophy and were told to let the education PhDs decide. Again, the concept failed, and untold millions of dollars have been spent since, retrofitting the schools to have walls.

    In the last decade, parents objected to allowing the adulteration of language skills by accepting alternates such as Ebonics as standards. Communication skills of the youth have suffered. Now it is “feel good” education, where red ink cannot be used to grade papers, low grades are not allowed, and smiley faces are the norm.

    Common Core is probably very innocuous and benign as a concept. But can you blame parents and taxpayers for questioning it, considering the history of what the educational establishment has given us?

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    George Lippencott 8 months ago

    Time to move on. If you want to continue start a blog on the topic you want to address. We are a long way from CC standards.

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    George Lippencott 8 months ago

    There are also those who want to be more efficient in the services we deliver and more thoughtful in how we deliver them. There are also those who defend obligations incurred by the federal government and expect those obligations to be met. There are those that believe we should prioritize new initiatives in undertake them with an eye to not undermining our economy by going to fast.

    Providing better medical care to an underservcd ,population is a good idea. Cleaning up injustices in our health care system is a good idea. Granting government subsidies to people at 400% of the poverty level is not a good idea while we are trying to address climate change and meet our obligations to previous government program recipients.

    Life is much more nuanced then you presented above.

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    jafs 8 months ago

    It's very disturbing to me that so many on the right take selectively edited videos and use them to make a case that is incorrect.

    Those of us that take the time to look at the whole thing know it's incorrect, but what about those that don't do that?

    And, I have to wonder about the motives - the folks that do the editing and present the videos know they're doing that, right? It's not an honest mistake or misunderstanding. So, what's going on there?

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    rc3 8 months ago

    Another word for common is unexceptional. Core would be essence.

    This program, to judge the unexceptional essence of children, may be a look into the future of society.

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    yanman 8 months ago

    Common Core, where 3x4 = 11 is a correct answer as long as the student can explain how he came up with the answer. Enough said. How stupid as a country are we going to get? Can we call this hitting rock bottom?

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    Richard Heckler 8 months ago

    Testing does not necessarily indicate learning is taking place. It seems these brilliant concepts are coming from politicians/elected officials who often are out of touch.

    Standardized testing reveals what? Remember all students are not the same which instantly rejects the concept of standardized testing.

    Digesting statements that Saticon offered above seems appropriate.

    Comparing USA students to students elsewhere in the world is a useless tool according to my perspective. The demographics can be so different.

    We must ask ourselves where do some politicians ever get the idea that defunding education would produce positive results? How the hell would they know? Why does anyone believe these talkers? There is zero hard evidence to support this political rhetoric.

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    Glenn Reed 8 months ago

    "Skeptical" is the wrong word here. It's used wrong. Stop using the word wrong.

    Uninformed is more accurate. Victims of misinformation or disinformation is also more accurate. Lazy idiots who can't be bothered to research things before forming opinions is more accurate, too.

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    John Yocum 8 months ago

    I also would like to comment on the current trend of teachers' evaluations tied to test scores. Now, if I could guarantee that every child's family was supportive at home when it comes to completion of homework, had their kids in bed by 8:00 or 9:00, expected their child to study even when they have two soccer games that night, fed them breakfast, their family wasn't having some ongoing domestic issues, etc., I could appreciate the concept of testing tied to evaluations in some form. But I can't guarantee that.

    I also can't guarantee that I won't be told to teach things a certain way by "the specialists" in the district office, only to find out that the process really didn't work in the end for my particular mix of kids that year.

    I'm also still waiting to see how test scores will be tied to the specials teachers, such as art, music, technology, library, physical education, as well as the ELL teachers and the reading specialists. Very vague and rather troublesome to me because if a teacher wants to keep their job (in other words, their kids must do well on the state tests), what do you think they might be forced to do? Oh, no! Teach to the test and limit kids' knowledge base. Very frustrating.

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    Ray Parker 8 months ago

    Keep the feds out of public schools. Common core indoctination promotes Islam and disparages Christianity, and shuts parents out of classes. That's how you get the Pillars of Islam covering a whole wall, floor to ceiling, in a Wichita public school. Just a trial balloon, folks.

    No brainwashing

    No brainwashing by parkay

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    chootspa 8 months ago

    You'd also find out that quite a lot of the "concerned citizens" don't have children enrolled in public schools, or at least that's what I found when I followed one poster to his/her Facebook group.

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    George Lippencott 8 months ago

    Exactly when did we make a real and meaningful effort to help the common citizen understand what is being undertaken. An uninformed citizenry coupled with a wide distrust of government is a recipe for disaster. Leaving the stage to people like Rush is a very bad choice.

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    kernal 8 months ago

    http://www.corestandards.org for those of you who still don't know what they are.

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    kansas_cynic 8 months ago

    So the idiots surveyed had never heard of standards, no idea what they are, but don't believe they will help? But if Rush and the GOP/Tebagger party says they're bad, that's what they believe. Maybe what we need is not a voter ID, but a voter test for IQ. Welcome to Kansas, and the other Red states, such as Texas to the land of the totally, willfully ignorant.

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    bevy 8 months ago

    They don't know what to expect a 4th grader to know in math, because Rush didn't tell them that.

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    John Kyle 8 months ago

    "The survey by Gallup and PDK International showed nearly two-thirds of those interviewed had never heard of the Common Core standards, and fewer than half believed they would help make the United States more competitive globally, one of the key stated goals of the project"

    So the people who don't even know what Common Core is have an opinion on its merits?

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