Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My response to Bill Nye (The Science Guy"): Standards OK but not the Common Core Standards

Response to Bill Nye (“Science Guy”), Posted Sept 2 at: Could Common Core be the antidote for Creationist teachers?
Bill Nye: If I were king of the forest we would have math in the core curriculum. Science would be in the core curriculum. English in the core curriculum. Elementary science is where you get scientists. Everybody in the space program, everybody who's a doctor got interested in science when he or she was seven or eight years old, before they were ten, not when they were 16 or 18. That's where you spend your money is science education in elementary levels. Now, people are opposed to core curriculum I believe for two reasons. One of them good and the other just not.

The first reason, my perception is they are afraid having these core curricula, these standards, prohibits teachers from having time to do other stuff that they're good at. It takes away from other things that a teacher brings to the party. And by that I mean what is your favorite thing about your favorite teacher? And it's his or her passion. It's his or her like I'm so excited about this I want you to get excited about this when you're a little kid or when you're any student at any level, even if you're a 58-year-old guy going to the Smithsonian to take a course in oceanography for fun. It's the passion of the person presenting it that gets you going. So, by having too many standards that have to be met too rigorously, the concern is, and I understand this, that you'll keep students from having any fun and getting excited about anything.

But the other reason people seem to be, my perception of what people don't like about core curricula is that it forces them to learn standard stuff when they could be teaching their kids things that are inconsistent with what we know about science. I'm talking about people that want to teach creationism instead of biology. And that's just bad. And the excuse or the justification is you don't want the government telling you what to do. We all have to learn the alphabet everybody. I'm sorry, if we're we're going to have a successful society, it's not an arbitrary arrangement of letters, you got to learn it. Sorry.

And the same way if you're asking me everybody's got to learn a little bit of physics, chemistry, mathematics and you got to learn some evolution. You've got to learn some biology. I mean the idea is obvious right? You have a certain minimum that everybody's got to meet. What? Everybody's got to learn the alphabet. Everybody's got to learn to read. The U.S. Constitution is written in English so everybody's got to learn to read English. It would be great if you learned some tonal languages, some romance language that would be good, but our laws are written in English. Everybody's got to learn to read English. Everybody's got to learn math. Everybody's got to learn some algebra. Everybody's got to learn some biology including evolution. So what's not to love? But I know there are people opposed to that.

MY RESPONSE: The opposition to the standards movement today among many professional educators and researchers is NOT based on an opposition to having standards. It not based on an opposition "to make sure students learn to read English, learn some algebra, and learn some biology." 

It is an opposition to a specific approach to standards known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) described by education writer and former teacher Susan Ohanian as as “a radical untried curriculum overhaul” and “nonstop national testing.”

Educators have pointed out that the standards themselves are developmentally inappropriate, were created without sufficient consultation with teachers and research on learning, and their validity has never even been
investigated. In a recent article in US News (Sept 2), the standards are described as a "poison pill for learning."

In addition, the CCSS imposes more testing than we have ever seen on our planet, despite research showing that increasing testing does not increase achievement.

All tests are to be administered on line, which which promises to be a boondoggle that will never end – billions to make sure all students are connected to the internet with up-to-date computers, followed by billions for constant upgrading, billions for constant replacement of obsolete equipment, and billions more for the never-ending new technologies. Moreover, there is no evidence that the brave new technology result in better
 student achievement. 

Finally, CCSS does not address the real problem in American education. Critics complain about our unspectacular scores on international tests, but when researchers control for the effect of poverty, American
test scores are near the top of the world. Our unimpressive overall scores are because the US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%).

Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. Study after study confirms that all of these have a profound negative impact on school performance. The best teaching and best standards in the world will not help if students are hungry, ill and have little access to books. 

Instead of protecting children from the effects of poverty, the common core is investing billions in inappropriate and harmful standards, and useless massive testing.

Stephen Krashen
Original article:

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