Tag Archives: CCSS

Weingarten Calls For A Moratorium on the Implementation of the Common Core: A “Save Harmless” Year for Planning That Includes Parents, Teachers and Principals.

The Common Core (CCSS) is approaching a tipping point, defined by Malcolm Gladwell as,

The word “Tipping Point” comes from the world of epidemiology. It’s the name given to that moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches critical mass. It’s the boiling point. It’s the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards. [in my example, downwards].

While the Common Core aficionados, the editorial boards of the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the NY Daily News laud the CCSS parents, principals and teachers are increasingly pushing back.

The parties responsible for providing the dollars, the electeds at the federal, state and local levels read the editorials and place that finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

As Tip O’Neill so succinctly put it, “All politics is local.”

In July the test scores will be released and the attacks will resume – dramatic drops in scores and the consequences – angry parents, teachers and principals – next year the Regents exams will reflect the CCSS and the attacks will reprise as more kids fail Regents exams and graduation and college readiness rates plummet.

Commissioner King bravely defends the decision to dive into the CCSS.

As a state, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above will likely decrease as a result of the more challenging expectations of the Common Core around careful analysis of text, writing with evidence from sources, applying math skills to real world problems, and critical thinking. The results this summer will provide a new baseline against which we – parents, educators, and students – can measure our progress toward college and career readiness.

The current implementation of the CCSS angers the public, the specter of the Bloomberg fall from grace over flawed school policies will resonate among the electeds.

We are approaching a tipping point.

Presidential aspirant Cuomo will see the “handwriting on the wall,” as the voting public loses faith, as polls show their opposition, for Cuomo, blame has to placed.

AFT President Randi Weingarten in a speech this morning at the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) offers a way out. See NY Times article here and an excellent Huffington Post article here.

With David Coleman, the father of the Common Core in the audience Randi asked,

So, what if I told you there is a way to transform the very DNA of teaching and learning to move away from rote memorization and endless test-prep, and toward problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork—things I know many of you have been advocating for years? And what if I told you there is a way to do that not a generation from now, but for students today, who will be the employees you’ll hire tomorrow?

For Weingarten the CCSS is at a crossroads,

I predict these standards will result in one of two outcomes: Either they will lead to a revolution in teaching and learning. Or they will end up in the overflowing dustbin of abandoned reforms, with people throwing up their hands and decrying that public schools just don’t work. And the coming months will determine which outcome comes to pass.

The AFT President makes a simple suggestion – take a deep breath – declare a moratorium on the impact of high stakes testing – make 2013-14 a “save harmless” year – spend a year working out an implementation plan.

An implementation plan must include curriculum, professional development and time—but they aren’t sufficient. A high-quality implementation plan also means involving the frontline educators who are responsible for engaging students in critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and the other skills expected in the Common Core. And the plan can’t just be imposed from on high. It needs to be designed with and by teachers—ideally through their collective bargaining agent. The only way this will succeed is if teachers have input and ownership. Teachers rise to the occasion. The more input and supports they have, the more confident they are about mastering these instructional shifts.

I fear the CCSSaphiles will push forward, continuing to test and punish, continuing to ignore the valid doubts of teachers and parents.

At the beginning of her speech Weingarten raised the thick volumes of the ELA and Math Common Standards – teachers envision emblazoned across the cover of the volumes the words of Dante, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” (“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”), the Core, rather than graduate students with college and career skills will be viewed as a punitive device, another way to punish, to humiliate, a “reform” that will fade and gather dust.

The clock is ticking.

Sitting in the audience: Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Education D’Shaun Wright, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and a long list of “movers and shakers.”

After months of exemplary approval ratings Governor Cuomo’s ratings have plummeted from 74% to 59%. It’s only a matter of time before the backlash over high stakes testing will begin to splash the Governor.

Mayor Bloomberg, in his last year, his education approval ratings have dived,

… that 56 percent of registered voters in New York City say they trust the union more to go to bat for students. Less than a third, 31 percent, said they trust Bloomberg more.

The Common Core, to use a Gladwell analogy is ” a meme, [an] idea that behaves like a virus–that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects,” the Common Core will either be rejected as a terrible idea or accepted as a brilliant approach to changing education.

Tick, tock.

Read and/or watch Weingarten’s speech here.

Common Core Confusion: The CCSS Without Content-Rich Curriculum, a Focus on Planning and Instruction and Collaboration is a Farce.

The NY Daily News, in a gloating editorial supports the “Common Core curriculum,” chides teachers and the education establishment, predicts dramatic drops in test scores and publishes a rebuttal by union president Michael Mulgrew.

The problem: the Common Core is not a curriculum, let me say it again, the Common Core is not a curriculum.

The Common Core, more accurately the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of skills; in the last wave of standards teachers were required in each lesson plan to include: Students Will Be Able To (SWBAT) and list the particular standard the lesson was addressing, some principals, once again, require the particular standards to be listed next to each activity in their lesson plan; a time-consuming, mechanical waste of valuable teacher time.

The current CCSS website advises,

The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them.

New York State has chosen to ignore the advice of the CCSS folk and push all students in grades 3-8 off the end of the pier at the same time. Some will sink, some will swim, some principals and teachers will be dragged under by the educational malfeasance of federal/state/city leaders.

Let’s take a look at the CCSS, the skills in a particular grade:

The ELA Common Core Reading: Literature Standards for Grade 8 are as follows,

Key Ideas and Details
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

Craft and Structure
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.5 Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.6 Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.7 Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.

• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.9 Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

In my view the CCSS are not unreasonable, teachers have been teaching many of the CCSS skills for years, the difference is the “one size fits all” nature of the standards, and the large number of standards, without a “content-rich curriculum.

What is the “content” in an 8th grade ELA class? Who decides the content? Is content determined by the books in the bookroom? Do uniform scoring rubrics exist? Do teachers within a subject area, on a grade, on multiple grades, in multiple schools have the opportunity to share rubrics and graded student work?

The answer: who knows? The Department abjures a focus on instructional practice; the “methodology” of the guys and gals at Tweed is the repetitive use of interim assessments which drives lessons to address “deficiencies” as identified by the assessment. The result is continuing deadening test prep.

The question of planning is left wholly to teachers, without the requisite professional development.

Effective lessons require effective planning.

Understanding by Design, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, in my judgment is far more important than the dry and seemingly endless CCSS.

Wiggins writes ,

How teachers plan – I think this is one of the more interesting ‘black boxes’ in education. There are few studies of it, yet it is clearly one of the most vital elements of the enterprise….

Robert Marzano reports that a “guaranteed and viable curriculum” is the key factor in academic achievement in schools, regardless of how flexible plans have to be…

• What content standards and program- or mission-related goal(s) will this unit address?
• What kinds of long-term, independent accomplishments are desired (transfer goals)?
• What thought-provoking questions will foster inquiry, meaning-making, and transfer?
• What specifically do you want students to understand? What important ideas do you want them to grasp? What inferences should they make? What misconceptions are predictable and will need overcoming?
• What facts and basic concepts should students know and be able to recall?
• What discrete skills and processes should be able to use?

An example of a suggested Wiggins planning templates.


The current network system was originally designed to allow principals (initially with their staffs) to select a network that matched the instructional philosophy of a school community. For a few districts Wiggins-McTighe, Understanding by Design, was the core of lesson preparation within schools. Individual teachers, group of teachers, by subject, by grade, had the opportunity to attend workshops, network leaders provided training, others moved in a different direction, aping the Tweed test prep loop.

Brave principals lead, cycles of professional development addressing the skills of teachers, content-rich curriculum, frequent principal classroom visits with meaningful feedback, and a laser focus on collaboration, among students, teachers and the school community. Too many principals “drink the cool-aid” and hammer staffs with cycle after cycle of data collection/analysis, dull teaching and re-teaching of “skills” absent a curriculum.

In eight months we will have a new chancellor, a well-respected educator who can lead,

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Albert Einstein

Teacher Evaluation: Are the APPR and the Common Core a Tsunami? Will a New Evaluation Plan and a New State Test Punish Principals and Teachers?

When the powerful say trust me the ordinary folk get pregnant.

All but four of the seven hundred school districts in New York State have negotiated principal/teacher evaluation plans with their unions and the Governor has placed a binding arbitration procedure in place that will determine a plan for New York City. With a “handshake” agreement between Chancellor Walcott and Union President Mulgrew torpedoed by the Mayor the binding arbitration procedure should be straightforward.

Read the “Guidance on New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review Law and Regulations” here for a detailed description of the law. The plan is a combination of state student test scores, a locally negotiated metric and principal observations. For the 70% of teachers who teach non-tested subjects “student learning objectives” (SLO) will be the metric.

The evaluation system is a growth model – using a complex algorithm – the subject of much debate and sharp criticism – teachers will be measured against anticipated student growth – meaning improvement in test scores and the other metrics. The State projects relatively small percentages of teachers – in 6-7% range will fall in to the lowest (“ineffective”) and the highest (“highly effective”) ranges.

The much hyped Gates-funded three year Methods of Effective Teaching (MET Project) found that,

…only 7.5 percent of teachers scored below a zero and only 4.2% percent of teachers scored above a three, this would suggest a large middle category of effectiveness with two smaller ones at each end.

MET Project teacher classroom observation scores were bunched at the center of the distribution, where 50% of teachers scored within 0.4 points of each other (on a four point scale) using the Charlotte Danielson Frameworks for Teaching.

Both the NYS APPR and the MET Project identified about the same percentages of teachers in the lowest category. The percentage of teachers scoring in the lowest tier for two consecutive years will undoubtedly be well below the percentages in a single year due to the “instability” of the scoring system.

When the dust settles we will probably identify 1-2% of teachers in the “ineffective category” for two consecutive years.

At the very same time New York State is racing down the Common Core State Standards path. Some schools/districts adopted the CCSS immediately while others have tarried. Teachers across the nation are wary and worried,

More than two-thirds said they were not well enough prepared to teach the standards to English-language learners or students with disabilities. More than half said they were not yet ready to teach them to low-income students or those considered at risk of academic failure.

In the 2014-15 school years the PARCC assessments will replace the current state exams – if the state chooses to adopt the exams. The PARCC assessments mean a sharp expansion of the number of tests with a number of interim assessments and the expansion of testing into the 11th grade. The item and task prototypes that PARCC had made available are far more difficult than the current tests.

At the March 11th Regents meeting Kristen Huff, a Regents Research Fund Fellow presented an update on the tests to be administered in April – Pearson-designed along with the State Ed staff. The power point here is a must read!

After the tests are scored the computers will spin and a group of human beings will determine a “base line” and “cut scores.”

The SED power point warns, and reassures,

We anticipate lower percentages of students who will score at or above grade level … we expect that the State-provided growth score will result in similar proportions of educators earning each rating category in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.

So, I feel unprepared, my students are unprepared, not to worry we’re going to….. what is the State going to do? Set lower cut scores? Jiggle the numbers? Or just mouthing platitudes?

A Regents member explained to reporters

“We’ve changed the curriculum because we believe that’s what is necessary to get to the standards we want to achieve,” Regent James Tallon Jr. said. “We have got to say to people take year one with a grain of salt.”

Principals and teachers ask: If we have to take year one test scores “with a grain of salt,” why are the scores still high stakes? Principals and teachers can still face harsh discipline as a result of year one scores.

Some districts have plenty of dollars to buy Common Core compliant books, provide in depth professional development while others can barely pay their electric and heating bills. The EngageNY website has a plethora of information – great – are teachers on their own? What is the responsibility of the school district? the principal?

The education side of the New York City Department of Education is scrambling to provide supports for principals and teachers, unfortunately the political side of the Department continues to close schools, alienating parents and teachers.

The bipolar Department of Education should be asking the union to partner in providing high quality professional development – unfortunately the reputation of the Department is sullied by the ceaseless school closings.

For teachers the new teacher evaluation plan (APPR), the Common Core and the new testing regimen look like a tsunami – and the more the State and the Department say, “not to we worry,” we worry.