Marion Brady: Eight Problems with the Common Core

Valerie Strauss who writes The Answer Sheet blog for The Washington Post published a guest post by Marion Brady who listed eight problems with the Common Core State Standards.  Here are the eight problems he cited from a general perspective:

One: Standards shouldn’t be attached to school subjects, but to the qualities of mind it’s hoped the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons, welders, surveyors — and teachers — should be held accountable for the quality of what they produce, not how they produce it.

Two: The world changes. The future is indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a dynamic world may be comfortable, even comforting, but it’s a Titanic-deck-chair exercise.

Three: The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact, the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields of study is vast, expands by the hour, and will go in directions no one can predict.

Four: So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored—a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.

Five: The Common Core kills innovation. When it’s the only game in town, it’s the only game in town.

Six: The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money).

Seven: The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public (and from most educators) because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do. Common Core Standards fans sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the second meaning. Standardized minds are about as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get.

Eight: The Common Core Standards’ stated aim — “success in college and careers”— is at best pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.

Interesting.  One other note, Brady claims that while Americans tests everybody, other countries don’t:

…at the insistence of policymakers, and unlike other countries, America tests every kid — the mentally disabled, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the transient, the troubled, those for whom English is a second language. That done, the scores are lumped together. She doesn’t even hint that when the scores of the disadvantaged aren’t counted, American students are at the top.

That push for including the mentally handicapped in student assessments began in the 90s, but I haven’t found any information that demonstrates a disparity in the types of kids who participate in student assessments in other nations or that would back up Brady’s claim.  If somebody knows of such a paper or study I’d be interested in seeing it.

3 thoughts on “Marion Brady: Eight Problems with the Common Core

  1. China is an obvious one. There are reports on testing in other countries, I will see if I can find it.
    No country on the planet invests in testing as done in the U.S. I recall the Kentucky story of a profoundly handicapped child, who was dying. Her medical doctor wrote to not subject her to testimg because of her condition. She came to school as lomg as she could. The school wrote to the state asking to waive testing. They responded to proceed with the testing. The teacher and AP decided to accept a sanction and wrote they did not test. Weeks later, the state wrote the testing was waived in this case. The child died a week later. Why not a deeper analysis of how messed up things are here?

  2. Hi Shane. I’m neither Christian nor conservative, and believe that the federal government needs to be involved with many aspects of society and our economy to an extent that  true conservatives  would probably have a hard time agreeing with. But in the matter of education, I am with you.  The further removed from local control education direction gets, the more it is influenced by agendas other than the educational needs of the child.
    I am also opposed to a national standardized core  and the current  overemphasis on testing. What is very important is for society, parents, and children to value education and learning, and for students to pursue their natural curiosity, which often unfolds and develops in ways that can be hampered by too much core, and too much emphasis on testing specific subjects. You often hear teachers at the college level complain about an increasing  general lack of curiosity among their students. Next to that, the specific educational program is of secondary value.

    1. Hi Steve, I have found that indeed I do have common ground with the local control issue. Unfortunately this principle has also been violated in a bipartisan manner as well.

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