Empty at the core

The new Common Core Standards will not guarantee “college and career readiness, predicts Will Fitzhugh of the Concord Review. A curriculum is needed to specify what students will read, write and know.

The education nomenclatura has been “reluctant to ask students to demonstrate any knowledge on tests, for fear they would not have any knowledge to demonstrate,” he writes.

So essay tests, for example, do not ask students to write about literature, history or science, but rather to give opinions off the top of their heads about school uniforms or whether it is more important to be a good student or to be popular, and the like.

. . . even though almost all of the state bureaucracies have signed on to the new Standards, the chance is good that they will collapse of their own weight because they contain no clear requirements for the actual academic work of students.

Fitzhugh is a fan of Albert Shanker, the great American Federation of Teachers leader. The Shanker Institute is among those leading the call for a “rich” curriculum to support the new standards.

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  1. An important exception to this is AP tests. Students taking AP classes must actually learn to demonstrate some knowledge.

  2. In a system in the middle of a mighty struggle between student achievement and learning the need to a comprehensive strategy in how to demonstrate advanced knowledge on a subject is necessary.
    I believe that these skills need to be instilled in the work of the upper elementary school student – because by the time a student enters the secondary grades their psychology of their academic performance is so ingrained that it takes much more time to bring them out of their self damaging habits.
    In short I would recommend the following for meeting the needs of students who struggle with essay writing expression:
    1) Require proofreading
    2) Make sure the student knows their expectations and requirements
    3) Reinforce the student when they use correct writing techniques
    4) provide practice and room to make mistakes and grow

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    The education nomenclatura has been ‘reluctant to ask students to demonstrate any knowledge on tests, for fear they would not have any knowledge to demonstrate, he writes.

    For literature and history, I do not think that this is even most of the problem. A more fundamental problem to designing a test around assumed knowledge is that you have to have some common idea of what is supposed to be known. For literature and history in the US as a whole, there doesn’t appear to be any such common idea.

    Diane Ravitch’s book What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know: A Report on the First National Assessment of History and Literature addressed this a bit. We don’t have a common nationwide curriculum for literature and history that includes a set of common works to have read, and events to have studied. Until we have this, blaming the test writers for being aware of it seems unfair.

    The kids may well know a lot … but if it isn’t what the test writers assume, then the kids will appear to be very unknowledgable. This isn’t fair if they are knowledgeable about areas other than what the test writers are testing.

  4. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    I really don’t understand what’s so hard about this whole school thing.

    Find some teachers that you want your kids to be like (at least in the relevant academic respects) and pay them to make your kids like them. You want your kid to be really good at math and to enjoy it? Find someone who is really good at math and who enjoys it and pay them some money to make your kid just like them.

    You want your kid to hate reading? Find some teacher who hates reading (they do exist) and pay them to make your kid just like them.

    This isn’t rocket science. It’s not about standards, or curricula, or testing, or any of that crap — it’s about what’s inside the teachers’ heads.