Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Scavenger Hunt for Evidence at the NJDOE - Winner Gets A Gift Card for Pearson Products!

Today I spent the morning with some of my favorite Common Core cheerleaders at the State Board of Education meeting. The focus today, was of course, Common Core, and it was an all-around cheery presentation with some more hand-selected teachers talking about how the Common Core saved them and was the greatest improvement in their classrooms ever. 

As always, I like to start with some of my favorite quotes from the day and my personal reactions to those statements: 

David Hespe (Commissioner of Education): "The common core is the answer to many if not all of the problems many people face in preparing students for the future." 
My reaction: OF COURSE IT IS!! Poverty, income inequality, dangerous urban areas, instability at home, unfunded mandates\underfunding of schools, systematic inequality and racism - those are all wiped out by Common Core! Why didn't we think of this sooner?!?!
Teacher on the panel (I will include name when they are put online): "We're asking students to work together, cite their evidence and justify, and develop skills for the classroom and life."
My reaction: Yeah, because no student has ever done such a great thing! All we've created up to this point are robot students who memorize information and never have an original thought in their head, don't know how to use evidence, and have zero skills for the real world! How has anyone survived up this point?
Kimberly Harrington (Acting Chief Academic Officer): "The standards [common core state standards] are written by experts and a team of educators."
My reaction: The day you tell me exactly who those "experts" are, how much you paid them to say what you're telling the public, and how many years experience they've had in a classroom, then I'll consider their opinions. "Team of educators," now that part is just flat out laughable. 
David Hespe: "We found the best standards [common core state standards] we could nationally."
My reaction: Yeah, they're the best thing since sliced bread! Really, come on. Did you realize states are pulling out of Common Core and dropping PARCC like flies? How about the complete uproar communities are in over this? Ah, but I forgot, the bubble the DOE lives in is impermeable, so no real news from the outside gets in. 
Now, unfortunately the presentation from today is not on the website yet, but I will update this post with a link as soon as possible. As always, I am going over highlights, but I suggest you still take the time to go through the entire presentation. I will be sharing my notes, but again, please go through the actual powerpoint put out by the DOE.

One slide in the presentation was about "shifts" that will happen under the common core. These include (quick points just from my notes):

1. "Have students use reasoning"
2. "Have personalized learning in the classroom"
3. "[Have students] do more than just finding answers and completing tasks"

They act as if no teacher in the state of New Jersey, and around the country for that matter, has never done any of these things. No teacher has ever asked students to go beyond memorizing. No teacher has ever addressed students individual needs through personalized learning. Of course. Keep telling us about teachers' job without stepping foot in their classroom. 

The State Board of Education and the Department of Education in New Jersey act as if no teacher knows now to teach, no student has ever been successful, and that Common Core is the end-all-be-all in "saving our failing education system." Yet out of the other sides of their mouths, they talk about how much they love and support teachers, how successful our students are, and how great education is in New Jersey. They honestly talk out of both sides of their mouths. We're going to tell you how amazing you are, and at the same time come in and change everything because you're an epic failure. Yeah, that makes sense.

I still have one simple request for the state board of education, the department of education, and he commissioner of education: show us the evidence. 

All day the presenters and panelists have been throwing around words\phrases like "rigor," "achievement," "educator effectiveness," "we need a common language," "CCSS eliminates the need for remedial courses," and on and on and on. 

The DOE and State Board of Education need to stop saying how important it is to "consult experts on the matters" of standards and curriculum. Who are these experts? How many years have they taught in a classroom? These are not unreasonable questions and we, the public, deserve answers. 

Here's a crazy idea: how about you consult with teachers, students, and parents, the ones who are actually impacted by these mandates\reforms? 

Common Core is all about presenting evidence and backing up claims with real hard facts.

Well, NJDOE, it's your turn. How about you present us with some of the evidence that proves all of these mandates are in the best interest of students, teachers, communities, and the future of public education. 

Because I've got a lot of evidence that says otherwise. Any day you want to sit down with a group of people who really know what's happening on the ground - not hand-selected teachers who say exactly what you want - I'm sure there would be a line out the door. But you would actually have to listen. And as always, not holding my breath on any of this.

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