Saturday, October 18, 2014

The biggest scam of all time

Sent to The Atlantic (October 18), in response to their “big question” column soliciting opinions about “The Greatest Scam of All Time.”  Nominations included Bitcoin, psychics, and Madoff. Here is my suggestion.

Just in case discussion of this “big question” (October, 2014) is not closed, I nominate The Common Core State Standards (abbreviation: CC$$). The CC$$ attempts to solve a problem that does not exist, our so-called failing schools, by imposing what education expert Susan Ohanian describes as “a radical untried curriculum overhaul” and “nonstop national testing."

The major problem in American education is not teaching quality, not a lack of standards or tests, but poverty: The US now ranks 34th in the world out of 35 economically developed countries in child poverty: when researchers control for the effect of poverty, US international test scores are at the top of the world, a clear demonstration that there is nothing seriously wrong with our teachers or our standards. Children of poverty do poorly in school because of the impact of poverty: Poor nutrition, poor health care, and lack of access to books, among other things.

The obvious first step is to improve nutrition through school food programs, improve health care through investing more in school nurses, and improving access to books through investing in school libraries.

Instead, the US government is investing billions in a tougher, more "rigorous" curriculum that has never been field tested for validity (and there are no plans to do so),  and instituting an astonishing amount of testing, more than we have ever seen on this planet.

The core of the scam is the requirement that all tests be delivered online. This means billions to make sure all students are connected to the internet with up-to-date computers, billions for constant upgrading and billions for  replacement of obsolete equipment, because of never-ending new technologies. There is no evidence, and no plans to gather evidence, showing that this brave new testing will help children. In fact, there is evidence that increasing testing does not increase school achievement.

The computer companies and publishers selling us the common core take no risk: taxpayers pay for everything. Also, the companies can't lose: If student achievement declines, teachers will be blamed, and we will be told that we need even tougher standards and more and higher-tech tests. The scam will continue indefinitely.

Stephen Krashen


  1. Not to mention the CC$$ were written by people working for publishers and testing companies.

  2. How can a private company, SBAC, have sovereignty over the state of Washington?
    With pressure from the US Department of Education, they try to enforce the use of standards that should be generated at the state as mandated in the 10th amendment. These standards are being sold with all the traditional charm of the good ole American snake oil salesman.

  3. Hi Stephen, have you read anything by Pasi Sahlberg? He writes about the success of the very things you're recommending in the Finnish public education system:

    I hope you find it helpful :)

  4. Thank you for continuing to fight for good education & supporting what is best for all. As a teacher & a librarian, I couldn't agree more.