“Waking up on third base” & Why CCSS Boasts Are Hollow

Jim Hightower, whom many of us in the over-40 set will remember as the plainspoken former Texas politician, once described former “president” George H.W. Bush as someone who “was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.” Hightower was speaking about Bush the Younger’s proclamation of accomplishments that were, in fact, “inherited” through his family connections.

I feel the same way when I hear the constant comments from the CCSS supporters who are claiming that education has been “transformed” as a result of the implementation of these most dubious of “standards.”

EngageNY, New York’s own propaganda organ for the CCSS, and John King, New York’s own “Commissioner of Education,” have entertaining Twitter feeds that are continuously guilty of the “waking up on third base” claim. Let’s look at some of my favorites:

Jonathan King’s claim: “It was great to see how hands-on and comfortable students at JD George are with Common Core standards.”

My comment: Really? Compared to what? Do you have any proof that the students were not “hands on” and “comfortable” before Common Core standards were implemented? Many CCSS proponents seem to have a “before CCSS” and “after CCSS” view, as if one day everybody woke up and realized “hey, we haven’t been allowed to teach interesting lessons under the ‘old’ system. But CCSS has arrived and liberated us! Huzzah, huzzah!”

I’ve been in education for the past 30 years, and believe me, if you’re a well trained teacher who has been keeping abreast of contemporary methodology and practice, the CCSS will not seem “new” or “novel.” (They will, however, seem confusing, arbitrary and inappropriate.) Furthermore, the CCSS may actually inhibit teachers from doing all the higher level thinking they did before CCSS arrived to save U.S. education, especially if your school adopted one of those cruddy “Common Core Aligned” textbooks that focus on low levels of thinking.

Here’s another howler, this time from the EngageNY Twitter feed:

“Parents are hearing that their children feel more prepared for college with Common Core.” 

I didn’t have to get more than 2 seconds into the linked video to shut it off and whisper under my breath: THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT DATA, THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT DATA! On what basis is this claim even remotely true? Was there a double blind experiment performed in which a large sample of students from non-CCSS schools and CCSS implemented schools were compared to see who had better success rates at their comparable colleges? Were the subjects “pre-tested” to compare the difference between “before CCSS” and “after CCSS” cohorts? Where there linear regressions, and Kruskal-Wallis tests performed, maybe an ANOVA here or there? Can this claim withstand any claim of “rigor?” Even more important, would a student who was not educated using CCSS be able to smell the rampant BS in this video?

Well, I was educated in the New York State public school system (Jericho High School, class of ’77), decades before CCSS was a glimmer in Bill Gates’ eye, and somehow I learned the skills necessary to “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” (that would be CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.1.A, in case you were wondering….) I intend to apply that standard to this Twitter statement, which, if you are reading this blog post, should convince you that I, in fact, possess these “before CCSS” skills.

Let me proceed:

The “sample size” in this video is all of 2 students, one of whom is in college, while the other is in 8th grade. And just so you don’t think there was any “sample bias” here, the “expert” who is telling us this story is… wait for it… their mother! The “evidence” presented is thin at best, and is based on an “opinion” rather than an actual “fact.” Furthermore, it is my claim that this may be an example of “cherry picking,” and not a representative sample, based on the fact that this was promoted by the leading propaganda source for CCSS in New York State, EngageNY. Using my non-CCSS implemented writing and analytic skills, I can conclude that this Twitter statement is lacking any sort of veracity.

There are a few teachers out there who truly believed that the CCSS has “improved their game,” but if I was one of them, I would not want to admit to that, the implication being that I was one of those “plug and play” educators who never taught anything beyond the basic skills (unless you were trained in the “back to basics” movement….) In my field of mathematics education, the NCTM Standards and Focal Points are old hat: we knew how to design and implement curricula that were based on conceptual understanding, problem solving and procedural fluency decades before the shining light of CCSS shone upon us. Seriously, I don’t understand how CCSS proponents can claim that anything in the standards are “forward thinking,” unless you define “forward” as “backwards.” In an era where the word “literally” is a synonym for “figuratively,” this might be a little true.

rmberkman

About rmberkman

This blog is the sole musings of one Robert M. Berkman, an educator who has taught math, science and technology for the past 30 years in New York. You can react to all his posts by emailing him at rants@bltm.com.
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2 Responses to “Waking up on third base” & Why CCSS Boasts Are Hollow

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