Common Core

What If They Threw Common Core Tests and Nobody Came?

Maybe, just maybe, one size of education does not fit all



So far, of the estimated 1.1 million New York public school students in grades 3-8 who were expected to take standardized Common Core tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics, about 155,000 are known to have opted out. That's up from 60,000 or so last year. That's pretty impressive, since state education officials insist "there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests." Technically, over 10 percent of students subject to the tests, and their parents, are engaged in civil disobedience.

There's a lot to debate over the value of testing, and the politics of the current opt-out campaign, which is driven by a combination of parents opposed to rigid Common Core standards and teachers opposed to test-based determinations of their performance. But if we can't agree on anything else, maybe we can come together on the idea that a one-size-fits-all model of education just isn't working.

Educrats brought this on themselves with their insistence that there's one right way of teaching and learning. All we have to do is find out what it is, apply it to all the kids, and we achieve an educational nirvana where our kids can beat out those damned kids from Shanghai (yeah, seriously, that's one of their selling points).

The problem, as educrats are discovering, is that there's a hell of a lot less agreement than they thought about what kids are supposed to learn, how they're supposed to learn it, and how fast it should be learned. Everybody wants their kids educated, but parents differ in philosophy, and kids differ in ability and inclination.

Education choice has been growing as a concern for the past two decades even as options have gained importance in many areas of American life. Food, entertainment, news media, politics, and culture have increasingly accommodated personal preferences. Why wouldn't education do the same? And so it did—charter schools, homeschooling, virtual schools, vouchers, tax credits…

And then the educrats cooked up Common Core to turn the whole education effort within reach of politicians into an assembly line, even sucking in the charter schools that had been satisfying the demand for educational diversity.

Maybe Common Core would have received a better reception if it had been imposed on the country in 1946, after years of regimentation and top-down decision-making from the New Deal bureacracy and the war effort. A gray standardized approach might have suited a collectivized era. But it was decades too late.

Hillary Clinton, now filling the Bob Dole-ish role as heir apparent to her party's presidential nomination simply because it's her turn, says that education is a "non-family enterprise" and criticizes those who "don't understand the value" of Common Core. Yeah, good luck with that. That's her former constituency in New York, the people who put her in the United States Senate, and they apparently don't agree. Many of them are voting with their kids' butts on (or off) classroom chairs to say that they want something different than the standard (and standardized) offering.

Not all parents agree. Many others are happy with the standards and testing. That makes sense because, as with so many things, one size doesn't fit all. 

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  1. since state education officials insist “there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests.”

    How about, because Fuck You, That’s Why.

    Turnabout is fair play, after all.

    1. We haven’t the will to enforce it. They do.

  2. There is more and more acknowledgement that the conventional style of coerced, age-grouped education fails huge numbers of students every year.

    For a bunch of great articles that explore this, check out Luba Vangelova.

    Also, Peter Gray, among many others out there.

  3. Common Core would have gotten a big yawn from the public had it not been for one thing: the mathematics nonsense that they are pushing on elementary school kids. It was probably one of the first times parents were able to peek inside the insanity that is the public school system.

    Kids come home from school completely confused about simple mathematics. Parents look at the homework in horror, trying to figure out how to solve the problems themselves and also trying to figure out what genius thought this was a good idea.

    This kind of nonsense has been going on for decades, but it is the first time it made it home and hit the parents in the gut.

    The teachers know better too. I watched a video of my daughter’s middle school teacher explaining how to do a problem that was obviously using the common core approach. The teacher prefaced the lesson with, “This is not how you’d actually do this in real life, I’ll show you that later, but I’m required to show you this way…”

    1. The math sucks, but the real gorilla in the room is the testing. Schools need to buy all new computers, spend weeks of classroom time prepping and then chain (figuratively of course) students to desks for days at a time to take them.

      Never mind the massive and hugely intrusive data collection requirements…

  4. education is a “non-family enterprise” and criticizes those who “don’t understand the value” of Common Core.

    Fuck off, slaver.

  5. In texas, if they don’t take and pass the STAR test they do not progress to the next grade. Is this not the same in NY?

    1. I had to check on this, and sure enough.

      My nephew had that rare chance to choose between two school districts. One had a great educational reputation and a forgettable football team. The other is being threatened with closure by the state for students failing tests, and has a team which can and has vied for state champ. Naturally he picked the good football team, because Texas.

    2. Actually I was told yesterday that that is not the case. I live in Houston. My daughter is failing math (and it looks like we’ll be homeschooling next year so she can learn real math). In a meeting with the teachers, the education coordinator, the school counselor, and the principal I was told if she failed STAAR but her daily grades were up to par that she could be passed to the next grade. Unfortunately, her daily grades are not up to par because common core is stupid.

      What gets me (and I made this very clear) is that they just introduced CC this year in our district. Every grade skipped a grade of math due to the changeover. (so 4rth graders pretty much skipped 4rth grade math and are doing 5th grade “math”) Yet my daughter is the problem? Yeah, right. They aren’t even taking the STAAR scores seriously this year for this reason.It appears my daughter is not the only one having trouble in math.

    3. To pass the STAAR EOC exam for Algebra I in Texas a student need only get a 38% (19 out of 50 questions) correct. Even if the kid failed the Algebra I class, as long as they “passed” the STAAR exam they were promoted to Geometry (the next year’s math).

      The stats schools put out are also disingenuous when they talk about being rewarded as a “Commended” or “Recognized” schools. In Texas, such schools are held up as models of instruction. But in order to get such a reward, a school only need have 90% of their kids PASS the tests. It doesn’t matter what the actual scores were (they could have all barely passed, but all that matters is that they passed). Hardly a measure of success if everyone passed but no one excelled…

      This leads to a focus within the schools on “bubble” kids. Those kids who are closest to that line get the most attention from the school and the administration. Really smart kids are ignored (they’ll pass anyways) while really low performing kids are reassigned to alternative campuses so that their scores won’t bring down everyone else’s.

      Source: High School Geometry Teacher in Texas

  6. Huh. That still of Mrs. Clinton is very, I dunno, Palpatine-like.

  7. I have the supreme joy of proctoring the testing for 6 weeks… The tests are cruel. They are intensely non-intuitive with a variety of confusing question types and minimal instruction. It is way worse than testing was when I was in school.

  8. Educrats brought this on themselves with their insistence that there’s one right way of teaching and learning.

    I’m sorry, but this is fundamentally disingenuous. Common Core does not specify how to teach, how to learn, or how to test. It specifies the knowledge and skills that students should end up with at each grade level. How to achieve that is absolutely left to be determined (at least by Common Core — whether particular states or schools districts go further, is a separate question).

    Methinks you guys criticize Common Core not because of any actual rational analysis of what does or doesn’t make sense, but rather just as a kneejerk ideological rejection of anything that feels to you like government dictating standards (and especially national standards, god forbid! — even though Common isn’t actually a federal initiative).

    1. That’s complete bullshit. Common Core is very explicit in how the curriculum is to be presented to students. It is not a set of content standards. It is a specific curriculum. It’s turned instructional pedagogy on its head.

      The tests were designed with a large amount of input, not from localities or states, but the Federal Department of Education. I’ve seen them firsthand, they are incomprehensible.

      1. If you’re being told how and what to present, and how to evaluate, that’s your state doing that, not the Common Core.

    2. // Common Core does not specify how to teach, how to learn, or how to test

      Complete lie

    3. My daughter, who loved math last year, has shed tears over it this year. When she looked at me, one day, completely frustrated and very distraught, and said, “:Moma I know the answer but I just don’t know how to work it this way,” I decided this was bullshit.

  9. Perhaps the CommonCore people can get input on what not to do, and how not to do it, from the Ed Establishment in Atlanta, that produced such sterling results – until it was discovered that it was all lies?

  10. Standardized expectations of skills for appropriate ages? That sounds fine.


    the math thing that I saw was insanity. As the above poster mentioned. Insane, convoluted, tedious ways of doing simple math problems. Does anybody remember the engineer who said he couldn’t even do his kids math problem?


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