Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2013

Survey shows public skeptical about school testing, Common Core standards

August 22, 2013


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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John Kyle 4 years, 9 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?

chootspa 4 years, 9 months ago

Isn't there a late night talk show host that goes around asking people bogus questions to watch them spout opinions on something they obviously know nothing about, since it didn't happen?

Seth Peterson 4 years, 8 months ago

There should be - it should also be something imposed on internet forum boards to require people to be accurate in their responses.

bevy 4 years, 9 months ago

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

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 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.

elliottaw 4 years, 9 months ago

It takes a few minutes to look up these things, but people are so lazy that they would rather cry and complain about something they know nothing about then take a little time educating themselves.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Interesting. We are spending money taken from these people. Exactly whose job is it to inform them. We posted it. Wow!! The statistics suggest that most of them did not even know to look it up.

This is one of our current problems. Experts do things and are offended that the people to whom they are doing them expect to be informed and educated.

Would it not be a really good world if the alphas ran it without interference from the deltas and gammas.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Everybody has a responsibility to educate themselves on important topics.

Simply by reading the newspaper, one can get quite a lot of information about things like this - there have been a number of articles on the subject in this paper. And, if they're interested, they can follow up with online research.

How exactly do you propose that we inform people who don't read newspapers? Should we send them all postcards individually? That would cost a lot of money, and it would be taxpayer money as well, right?

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Only a minority reads newspapers.

Well we could

  1. send a note home informing parents and telling where to find details.
  2. Give interviews to local media outlets
  3. Post it on Facebook
  4. Send a tweet.
  5. Schedule a public discussion
  6. Discuss at PTA etc.

Please distinguish between here and elsewhere. Our district is more media savvy then some.

skull 4 years, 9 months ago

Sounds pretty cheap...maybe if people are so interested in forming an opinion on such things, they should take the responsibility to learn about them first. People love to complain about wasteful spending. What you're suggesting sounds like a pretty large media campaign. How is spending a large amount of tax dollars to have a government official teach an already opinionated section of the population going to go over? The same government official will also be responsible for explaining to them that this isn't a federal intrusion. I bet that wouldn't meet with any criticism at all, especially since the same group that seems to oppose these standards also appears to be the least educated on a factual basis, and their rhetoric and misinformation is all they care to learn.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Whose fault is that?

It's not hard to read a newspaper, either in print or online.

How much do we have to baby adults? If somebody wants to be informed, it's not hard to do, but requires a little effort on their part.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

  1. Parents know what is going on. They get notes all the time from teachers. They have to read the notes.
  2. You have to get the local media interested. That doesn't happen until some uninformed loud mouth starts to spread lies. If it bleeds, it leads, and there is no blood here.
  3. If anything is too detailed and takes more than 2 minutes to read, it is usually ignored.
  4. Tweets limit the number of characters.
  5. You have to get people away from their computers and televisions and get them to the discussion. Most people I know who no longer have school aged children won't bother to attend.
  6. Involved parents in PTA are already aware of what is going on. If they don't attend PTA meetings, they aren't involved. People who don't have children in school generally don't join PTA.

Again, those who bother to do the work to keep themselves informed have informed opinions. Those who don't still get to answer questions on surveys, and will probably mimic anything that manipulators give them.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

79%. That can not be all right wingers??

Even the parents do not necessarily read more than the note sent home.

One of the challenges of Democracy is that it requires an informed public. Your argument suggests that you do not believe it is possible to inform them?

If the right got it out what happened to the left?

Again. 79 percent did not know about the standards..It would appear that at a national level we were not getting the word out.

Frankly, I reject your standard for the public. If it is important we need to make every effort to make them aware.

Most of your rebuttals to my list are sophomoric. You use the various methods for a short pithy note about the topic an reference to where more information can be found.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

And they are more interested in fake reality shows to bother.

chootspa 4 years, 9 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.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Wow. Only people with kids are allowed to talk about public school expenditures. The rest of us just get to pay and pay and pay.

Now I read the data as a percentage of all folks interviewed which suggests that the percentage is probably the same for people with kids and without kids.

chootspa 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm talking about the astro turfed agitators that are showing up at BOE meetings all upset about "federal takeovers."

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Moderate, it doesn't take much to keep yourself informed, whether or not you have children. They could try volunteering in schools. Then they could see that most teenagers aren't gang bangers who kill people for no reason, and that they are learning something. They can see the wonderful things that the elementary age students are doing. They can also see all the paperwork the teacher has to do, other than planning and grading papers, especially the SPED teachers. They can follow the teacher around and realize that when he/she leaves right after school lets out they are taking a bag of work with them, or they are running off to sponsor a sport or a club at another school. If you are really interested in how your money is being spent you would get involved.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Feel better?? This string is not about teachers but about a political decision made by a large number of state boards of education who presumable know what they are doing but who may have failed to disseminate their reasoning to the people for whom they work

You I suspect are a teacher (or were). You are among the 30% with a college degree. Unfortunately you work for the 70% who do not have one and who are mostly focused on a whole lot of other things. That means you have the obligation to inform them not the other way around. In this case the obligation was not yours although the fallout may impact you (regrettably)

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Teachers had a part in developing Common Core.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes but not the decision to implement it.That was done as above. They (BOEs) have the obligation to make sure the taxpayers and citizens are appropriately informed.

John Yocum 4 years, 9 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.

Glenn Reed 4 years, 9 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.

skull 4 years, 9 months ago

True, the headline should be "misinformed public strongly opinionated about standards they admittedly know very little about."

Come on bootstrappers, put on your boots and learn before you speak. I've never seen boots on a parrot before...

Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 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.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Without testing, there's no way to know if students are being adequately educated.

And, that's important.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

When my daughter was in school, I would test her the night before she had the real test. She did fine, but blew the real test. It was major test anxiety. She finally got over it, and is now working on her masters, but testing doesn't always show what a person's ability is.

Also, educators know there are more factors than just them that influences a child's learning. They are expected to get the same results from a student whether or not their live is chaos or stable. Where is the accountability of parents?

The politicians set up these tests, then they criticize the teachers for teaching to the test. Why would you test someone over something they haven't learned? That's called a pretest, which teachers give to see how much the kids already know, so they can design instruction from that point. Would you want a politician telling your car mechanic how to fix your car? Why do we expect them to tell teachers how to teach?

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

It's a problem, for sure, but standardized testing is the only way we have to try to assure that all children are being adequately educated.

I haven't seen any alternatives that would work for that purpose.

It is true that children vary in many ways, from socioeconomic status to test anxiety, etc. But the goal of public education is to adequately educate them despite those differences. If one kid graduates from 3rd grade while performing at a 1st grade level, we're not doing that.

We're not telling them how to teach, we're telling them what we expect their students to have learned. And, that issue has always involved a wide variety of people and opinions, including politicians. How else would you have us decide what children should be learning?

yanman 4 years, 9 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?

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Where did this come from. I heard it from a concerned mother this week. If the issue is that a formulation about ambiguous data that can be rationally defended is OK - I agree. If we are really applying that notion to things that are facts then I have a problem.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

You obviously are clueless about Common Core. Please educate yourself, and not by listening to the Tea Party. Go to a school and talk to a teacher or administrator.

jafs 4 years, 9 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?

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

JAFS I have attended symposium on this exact point (edited videos) sponsored by the left. It would be great if the only things published were truthful and accurate but then we seem to have trouble these days agreeing on what that is?

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Then go to the schools and research it yourself. See Common Core in action. Don't waste your time going to symposiums. Go to the source.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

I am not talking about CC here. I am talking about a much broader problem. I resent your notion that I am clueless. Read again what I posted. Nowhere did I attack the standards. I am probably better informed than 80 to 90 % of the populace - at least at the level I need to be.

You do a disservice to teachers in your almost ceaseless attacks on anybody who you think disagrees with you. You are probably in the top 30%. Be more tolerant of the rest of us.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Well, I think there are clear examples of truthfulness and mendacity.

When somebody takes a video of an event, and then doctors or edits it so it seems to show something other than the original video, that's mendacious.

When somebody takes a partial quote, and leaves out the rest, so that one gets a misleading impression, that's mendacious.


Knowingly and deliberately doing the above so as to create false impressions is a form of fraud, in my opinion.

IreneAdler84 4 years, 9 months ago

Mendacity. A word that should be used more often these days.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago


I actually couldn't find the word I was looking for, and used that one instead - glad you liked it.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

When you organize a topic to present only one side of the story and you are an opinion maker that is just as mendacious.

I love the whole concept of talking points - presenting only your side of the story and doing so with a lot of "English". Followed by personal attacks on those who might just present an alternate view. Lot of that going around.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

I don't agree.

It's bad to only present one side of the story, and spin things, but it's worse to flat out lie about them.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Well, that's a good question.

Sometimes they're the same, I think. But, other times, they're an attempt to interpret facts in a way helpful to your position, which is a little different from simply presenting things that are untrue as if they're true.

For example, one can say "Approximately 47% of people don't pay federal income taxes", which is true, but without discussion of who makes up that group and why they don't pay those taxes, which is presenting a partial view, but an accurate one. Or, one can say "1/2 of Americans don't pay taxes", which is untrue.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Really. If you want to argue that rounding from 47% to 50 % constitutes lying or spin or simplicity since I doubt e know that number within plus or minus 5%.

It is a fact that close to 50% do not pay federal income taxes for whatever reason. Now having fought that fight once I also know we do not agree on why.

This is not for rme an argument about why or to what end. It is an argument about consequences. People vote their own interests IMHO and therefore when a substantial number of people have no consequence from raising taxes you get run away government. Remember elections occur at a point in time. It does not matter that some of the 50% are only temporary, it matters there motivation at the time they vote.

The low end should pay and set one end of the progressive scale. We then apply consistent progressiveness until we take it all.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

No, the problem is the generalized use of the word "taxes" rather than "federal income taxes" - I don't have a big problem with the 47-50% difference.

People who don't pay federal income taxes pay a lot of other taxes, so it's simply not true that they "don't pay taxes".

I don't agree with you that the federal income tax question is responsible for the things you don't like - I find that we have two differing philosophies at play. There are those who want to cut taxes and cut services, and those who want to tax and provide services. Those groups don't neatly divide at the point of federal income tax responsibility.

For example, I pay federal income taxes, but generally believe in taxing and providing government services/programs, and there are poor people who are more conservative than I am.

The real solution to this problem is to make sure that employers pay people enough to live on, and even enough to pay taxes on, and still live on. Then the "working poor" won't be such a large group, and folks working at low wage jobs will pay taxes, etc.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

This latter is another argument Whatever we produce must compete in the world market. If we raise wages too high we can not compete and the jobs go away. It is not my fault or even my desire that that competition occur. That said our leaders created it.

I reject the argument that by reducing remuneration to the wealthy this can be resolved. They are simply too few of them to make much impact on the price of the products (although I find the current process unacceptable) . I also reject the notion that the upper half of the middle should get paid less. There needs to be incentives to get difficult degrees and do difficult jobs. Remember oil field workers are well paid. Wall-Mart employees are not.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

I use the argument federal income taxes. Unfortunately it is the federal government that is running a massive annual deficit and an even more massive long term deficit. Federal income taxes play into all of that even SS and Medicare because the trust fund is gone and most future payments come from the general fund.

The fact the people pay for an annuity and an old age medical program does not in any way negate my argument. That argument is mendacious. The fact that people pay state taxes (where expenditures are mostly balanced is irrelevant to my argument.

Everybody needs to pay federal income taxes and the measure should relate to what is left after they pay when all income is considered (even in kind).!!!

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

So, you think that seniors living on less than $1000/month SS checks should pay federal taxes, I guess.

And, the working poor making barely enough to live on.

Seems like a rather cruel idea to me.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Yep. Everybody should pay to achieve a mindset that the money does not come form Obama's stash but from all of us. At the bottom maybe 5% or even $10 a month. It is the principal not the amount that counts.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 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.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Ok - sure - there are more possibilities than just the two I presented. My point is that philosophies are at play, and it's not just a matter of who pays taxes.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 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.

Sam Crow 4 years, 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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