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Debunking the ‘Common Core- – “The Emperor’s New Clothes” Narrative

With teachers’ strikes in Ontario and in British Columbia over the past year and much debate and discussion in both Canada and the United States about education and the policy decisions and direction many governments and educators are taking,  I accepted a request from The Bell News to post their article on Education Reform and their concerns about proposals made by Christopher H. Tienken, Editor of AAASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice.

While this post is specifically about proposals in the United States, there are many things in the proposals that cut across national boundaries and which may be of interest to my readers in other countries where education curriculum and practice is a growing concern.

In the interest of disclosure, The Bell News is a conservative website concerned with publishing material ignored by or seldom reported by the mainstream news media.


 Debunking the ‘Common Core- – “The Emperor’s New Clothes” Narrative


Should Common Core State Standards be considered an educational version of the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?  The standards are the promise of new clothes for education but is there basis for believing there are any clothes at all?  From Wikipedia:

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over a hundred languages.[1]

Christopher H. Tienken, Editor of AAASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice provided commentary in the Winter 2011 publication entitled Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making.

His research may just expose the standards to be unfit and fallacy to those who are critical thinkers asking for data determining their stated validity.  This article should be studied by educators, politicians, taxpayers, to understand the colossal farce Common Core standards are in terms of providing promises of educational improvement for American students as they are unproven and untested.

Tienken writes the standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis, 2010).  So why would governors and private trade organizations spend millions of taxpayer dollars on theories instead of verifiable researched data?  The CCSS proponents have bought into these two arguments:

America’s children are “lagging” behind international peers in terms of academic achievement, and the economic vibrancy and future of the United States relies upon American students outranking their global peers on international tests of academic achievement because of the mythical relationship between ranks on those tests and a country’s economic competitiveness.

Where’s the data supporting the CCSS proponents’ arguments?  There isn’t much put forth by the education reformers.  So why are states and school districts implementing unproven and untested theories?  He defines the acceptance/lack of data for the unproven and untested CCSS assessments and implementation allegedly designed to enable students to become “globally competitive” with such sentences/phrases as:

  • An unbelievable suspension of logic and evidence
  • To believe that economic strength of the United States relies on how students rank on the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) or the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), rather than reliance on policy (tax, trade, health, labor, finance, monetary, housing, natural resources policy)…”is like believing in the tooth fairy”
  • The “critical skills necessary to compete in the 21st century” are repackaged 19th century ideas and skills…they are “inert, sterile, socially static”…the CCSS are stuck in a curricular time machine set in 1858
  • Connecting an individual’s education achievement on a standardized test to a nation’s economic future is not empirically or logically acceptable and using that mythical connection for large-scale policymaking is civically reckless…when school administrators implement programs and policies built on those faulty arguments, they commit education malpractice
  •  More countries with national standards underperformed the US than did countries without national standards
  • To think that every student in this country should be made to learn the same thing is illogical—it lacks face validity…we should have learned from the Soviet Union that central planning does not work in the long-run
  • Standardization and testing are so entrenched in Singapore that every attempt to diversity the system has failed, leaving Singapore a country that has high test scores but no creativity
  • (CCSS) creates a standardizing apparatus…we should respect differences among children, not try to extinguish them…there is a lot more going on here on the societal level than meets the eye…it’s more complex than the creators and vendors of the standards either understand or wish to present
  • Children have a right to a quality education.  School leaders, those who prepare them, and the people who lead our professional organizations have a duty to help provide the quality…if some education leaders choose to drink the snake oil then they should expect to get sick.  If some help sell it, they should resign.

He backs up his findings with 48 independent referenced sources.  It is worth your time to read his commentary that destroys the CCSS proponents’ arguments with methodical precision based on actual data.  Compare/contrast his research/reference with the data CCSSO and the NGA use:

Many school districts or schools have “data committees” that make school-wide decisions based on some type of data. Surely there must be quality data available publically to support the use of the CCSS to transform, standardize, centralize and essentially delocalize America’s public education system.  The official website for the CCSS claims to provide such evidence. The site alleges that the standards are “evidence based” and lists two homegrown documents to “prove” it: Myths vs Facts (NGA, 2010) and the Joint International Benchmarking Report (NGA, 2008).

The Myths document presents claims that the standards have “made use of a large and growing body of knowledge” (p. 3).  Knowledge derives in part from carefully controlled scientific experiments and observations so one would expect to find references to high quality empirical research to support the standards.

When I reviewed that “large and growing body of knowledge” offered by the NGA, I found that it was not large, and in fact built mostly on one report, Benchmarking for Success, created by the NGA and the CCSSO, the same groups that created these standards; Hardly independent research.

The Benchmarking report has over 135 end notes, some of which are repetitive references. Only four of the cited pieces of evidence could be considered empirical studies related directly to the topic of national standards and student achievement.

The remaining citations were newspaper stories, armchair magazine articles, op-ed pieces, book chapters, notes from telephone interviews, and several tangential studies.

Many of the citations were linked to a small group of standardization advocates and did not represent the larger body of empirical thought on the topic”.

Tienken’s report needs to be sent to school boards, superintendents, state educational agencies, educational reform groups, governors and state legislators for their response to his research and conclusions.  These private and/or public entities need to asked why they support common core standards and provide the data to back up their beliefs and use of the standards.  If you get shocked faces and declarations from these groups/politicians such as “I do whatever _________ tells me to” (fill in the blank: state agency, federal government, governor, etc), you know the right to direct your school’s educational direction is in dire jeopardy.

Tienken writes those who perpetuate bad ideas based on flawed data are practicing poor leadership.  If some school leaders and their organizations do not want to stand up for children then they should stand down and let those who are will assume the leadership reins.

How do you believe these organizations/politicians will respond (if they do) to Tienken’s research?  Tienken welcomed rebuttal on his 2011 commentary:

“I welcome your rebuttals but please remember: Leave the opinions and ideology behind and bring the evidence”.

Do the CCSS proponents have anything other than opinions and ideology?   This commentary was published in Winter 2011.  I haven’t seen any data backing up CCSS proponents’ assertions, have you?   That’s odd as they state CCSS is data driven.  If they insist CCSS should be data driven, shouldn’t the foundational theory of their reforms consist of verifiable data to determine the veracity of their argument?



© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Truth-exposed-and-connected-to-Assembly-of-second-nations/124700497694999 Crystal

    I have to say I really enjoy your [age . we need to be able to voice our beliefs and concerns

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