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At the Chalk Face: Education Post’s Selective Concern with “Belittling”

There’s a new blog in town, and it is fortified by millions in corporate-reformer cash in order to spread the message that “the reforms are working.” It’s called Education Post. I first wrote about it in this September 3, 2014, post.

EdPost is keen on US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (More discussion on that point in in this September 18, 2014, post.) And Duncan is keen on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a product for which “lead writer” and non-educator/edupreneur David Coleman is now famous. (Duncan and Coleman go back to at least 2001 and Duncan’s time as Chicago Schools CEO. I detail this in my upcoming book on the history and development of CCSS– due for publication in April 2015.)

In 2007, Coleman started a company called Student Achievement Partners (SAP). In 2011, SAP became a nonprofit. Today, SAP deals solely in CCSS. As for Coleman, in 2012, he rode a non-educator/edupreneur wave right into the presidency of College Board.

EdPost promotes “conversation” that promotes Duncan and Coleman and their pet CCSS.

Let us switch gears for a moment.

On October 9, 2014, Real Clear Education posted an article in which two teachers associated with SAP’s Core Advocate Program offered their perspectives (support, of course) for CCSS.

The piece includes the all-too-familiar CCSS propaganda:

The Common Core State Standards exist to make sure that our students graduate high school ready for and able to attend colleges and universities or enter a career. What students should be able to do is part of a progression, a staircase of understanding and skills that leads from kindergarten to 12th grade graduation. …

The clear, high bar set by the standards ensures that my students are on the path to college and career when they leave my classroom at the end of kindergarten, so that is the bar I aim for.

Sounds great. I like the “staircase” analogy. But it’s the “ensures” part that betrays that this message is propaganda, for CCSS has never been tested. So, anyone stating that CCSS “ensures” anything is peddling fiction.

Now, it happens that the teacher quoted above is taking issue with the idea that CCSS requires kindergarteners to count to 100. The teacher is fine with this– after all, it is part of non-educator/edupreneur David Coleman’s CCSS– and CCSS is magically guaranteed set those kindergarteners to climbing the “stairs” of CCSS so that twelve years later, they will be (of course, of course) “college and career ready.”

In her response, this teacher notes, “It is simply not ok with me that educators like [New York principal Carol] Burris choose what is too easy or too hard for their students.”

But apparently it is okay to follow the untested choices of others on the matter.

No mention of what happens to the children who cannot count to 100 by the end of kindergarten. Surely there are some who cannot.

Are they, at the tender age of five, declared to be “behind in college and career readiness”? Are they– or their schools– or their teachers– “failing”?

On October 11, 2014, education historian Diane Ravitch reacted to this “count-to-100″foolishness on her blog– and her reaction was a strong one. Here is an excerpt:

This is one of the silliest, most embarrassing articles I have read in a very long time. It was allegedly written by two teachers as a rebuke to Carol Burris, the experienced high school principal who has made a hash of Common Core in her many writings for Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet in the Washington Post.

The teacher who says she teaches kindergarten wants to make sure that her 5-year-old students are “college-and-career-ready.” Really? So if a 5-year-old can’t count to 100, they won’t have a career or go to college? Surely, she jests.

Has she ever heard of “Defending the Early Years,” an organization of early childhood experts who believe the Common Core standards are indeed developmentally inappropriate.In this article, Professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige says that it is “ridiculous” to expect little children to count to 100. So what if they learn to do it next year or the year after?

I don’t remember counting to 100 by the end of kindergarten. I have a Ph.D. in stats. Neither does my sister, who is an electrical engineer. Kindergarten was not even required when I started school (1972). I do know that I could count to 13 at the beginning of the year, and I did know a classmate who could count to 100 at the beginning of the year.

I remember being shocked to learn that there were more than 13 numbers.

In kindergarten, my nephew tested in the 97th percentile for perceptive reasoning. Furthermore, he could count to 100 by the end of kindergarten. But he had trouble mastering his colors and his alphabet.

He would have flunked the CCSS stairs.

I didn’t even have stairs.

In addition to this “kindergarteners should master counting to 100 because CCSS says so,” Ravitch also took issue with the fact that the teachers in the Real Clear Education article were associated with Coleman’s CCSS-promoting SAP.

EdPost to the rescue.

In an article entitled, “Why Is Diane Ravitch Belittling These Teachers?,” J. Gordon Wright offers a blurb in response to Ravitch. (Wright’s defense really is just a burp of a response. Below is the entire post.)

In a recent blog post, education historian Diane Ravitch belittled two teachers who happen to disagree with her and school principal Carol Burris on the merits of higher standards.

Honest differences of opinion are one thing. But describing these teachers’ words as “silly” and “embarrassing” simply because they don’t share your views should be out of bounds. No matter where you stand on the issues, we can all agree that we need to make it absolutely safe for teachers to express themselves without feeling bullied or humiliated by people with a large public platform.

Ravitch points out concerns from some in the early childhood community about meeting Common Core standards with young children. As a father of young public school students and someone who worked alongside some of the nation’s leading experts in child development, I think an ongoing debate about the best way to raise standards in the early grades is needed and important. But belittling comments stifle rather than support that debate.

It’s also disingenuous for Ravitch or anyone to suggest that someone lacks credibility solely because of an affiliation to a certain organization. Whether you are linked to foundations, unions, or others, what matters is the strength of your argument, not the source of your funds. [Emphasis added.]

Let’s examine the idea of “feeling bullied or humiliated by people with a large public platform.”

In November 2013, in response to opposition to the CCSS he was decidedly promoting, Duncan made the following statement “from a large public platform” and in an obvious effort to scapegoat (“bully”? “humiliate”?) a specific group– and their children.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said. [Emphasis added.]

But where is J. Gordon Wright’s article entitled, “Why Is Arne Duncan Belittling These White Suburban Mothers and Their Children?”

Nonexistent, you say?


Let’s do another.

David Coleman tailored the CCSS ELA to suit a particular literary analysis called New Criticism, which completely discounts the experiences that readers bring to texts. (For an excellent discussion on this point, see New York professor Daniel Katz’s September 19, 2014, post.) And yes, Coleman’s preference for New Criticism does indeed drive the curriculum associated with CCSS, for it completely ignores another prominent form of literary analysis, Reader Response.

In defense of his preference for the New Criticism-shaped CCSS, in a talk entitled, “Bringing the Common Core to Life,” Coleman once told an audience,

As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare. [Emphasis added.]

Coleman did apologize to his audience before he said it.  But he still said it, and it clearly is an affront to the sensibilities of his audience.

Who cares what you feel, right?

But where is J. Gordon Wright’s article, “Why Is David Coleman Belittling the Personal Experiences of  Both His Professional Audience and People in General?”

Nonexistent again, you say?

And again I say, indeed.

In the Real Clear Education article in which the two SAP-affiliated teachers defend CCSS, the second teacher is a high school English teacher. She states that CCSS “is not a curriculum.” However, Coleman has made it clear that *his* CCSS ELA is purposely not associated with Reader Response criticism– which means that CCSS ELA is driving curriculum away from Reader Response criticism. Thus, to state that “teachers have the freedom to choose their own curriculum” is deceptive, for CCSS ELA purposely restricts what curriculum fits it.

The same is true for CCSS math.

CCSS math “chair” Phil Daro admits that CCSS math has been written specifically to drive the math curriculum in (his preferred) direction “for building a new kind of instructional system.” It just so happens that Daro’s “new instructional system” is the one that has produced EngageNY/Eureka Math– a curriculum over which Daro had the last word.

CCSS drives curriculum.

The two SAP teachers aren’t telling the curriculum-driving part of the CCSS story. Perhaps they do not know it. But they should know it before wholeheartedly promoting CCSS as associates of SAP.

EdPost’s J. Gordon Wright craftily dismisses affiliations and funding in his statement,

It’s also disingenuous for Ravitch or anyone to suggest that someone lacks credibility solely because of an affiliation to a certain organization. Whether you are linked to foundations, unions, or others, what matters is the strength of your argument, not the source of your funds.

Ravitch doesn’t state that the two teachers “lacked credibility solely” for affiliation with SAP. Prior to her focus on the teachers’ SAP affiliation, Ravitch first addresses the “kindergarteners should count to 100 because CCSS says so” issue.

That noted, an organization’s “source of funds” certainly does matter. The source of EdPost’s funding is the reason that only the funders’ “side” of that supposed education “conversation” makes an appearance on the EdPost blog.

EdPost clearly promotes CCSS acceptance. That’s their predetermined “conversation.”

As authentic as staged spontaneity.

If the purpose of the EdPost blog is to promote the likes of Duncan and Coleman (which it is), it should at least stop trying to snow the public with the repeated use of the term “conversation.”

Then again, coming clean is a lot to expect of yet another handsomely-funded, top-down propaganda vehicle.



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Mercedes Schneider

Mercedes Schneider is a Louisiana public school teacher and education activist. She holds a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods and has taught for th...