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Fordham Institute: Selling Common Core in States with Better Standards

This post is about the for-profit “reform”-promoting think tank, the Fordham Institute.

The Fordham Institute likes to grade.

Mind you, Fordham doesn’t bother to grade itself. But it does promote the grading of teacher training programs via an entity it birthed in 2001, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and it also promotes the grading of teachers using student test scores (see the final statement of this Fordham post for the clear endorsement for grading teachers using student test scores).

And, perhaps that for which Fordham is best known: It loves grading state standards andeven giving some states higher marks than the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)– and still promoting CCSS in statehouses across the country.

In promoting CCSS, Fordham is only doing what Bill Gates has paid it to do: “track state progress towards implementation of standards….”

Fordham takes its CCSS “tracking” seriously– to the point of manipulating states with standards that it graded as “superior” to CCSS into clinging to CCSS.

Recall that 2010 Fordham report in which Fordham graded all state standards as well as CCSS and compared all state standards to CCSS.

CCSS did not receive the highest marks, yet it is continuously pushed by Fordham in statehouses around the country (see here and here and here and here for examples).

Consider Indiana, which has been in the March and April 2014 news for its considering dropping CCSS– and subsequently “forming” “new” standards that just happen to closely resemble CCSS.

In 2010, Fordham graded Indiana’s English Language Arts (ELA) and math standards as superior to CCSS.

In January 2013, Fordham Institute Executive Vice President Mike Petrilli, who bills himself as “one of the nation’s most trusted education analysts.”

(His self-titling reminds me of “Dr.” Steve Perry, who bills himself as “America’s most trusted educator.” Read here to see why Perry lacks my trust.)

Petrilli might consider himself “trusted”; however, he uses such trust to exploit– his undeniable goal being to manipulate states into keeping CCSS– even if his own think tank graded a state’s standards as being better than CCSS.

Let’s “watch” Petrilli in action:

In January 2013, Petrilli testified in Indiana and offered these points to talk Indiana out of any return to their CCSS-superior standards and into retaining CCSS:

1. First, you have already invested time and money into implementing the new standards. They have momentum. Calling for a do-over would waste the millions of man hours already invested—and potentially cost the state of Indiana more money than proceeding with the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]

A great suggestion: Keep the deficient CCSS since you have spent money on it already.Never mind that Fordham did not advise Indiana not to sign onto CCSS in the first place since it rated Indiana’s standards as superior. There was no Petrilli plane trip to testify on that front.

2. Second, it’s not clear that returning to your old standards would put Indiana on a path toward higher student achievement. For while you had some of the best standards in the country for over a decade, you also had one of the worst student achievement records on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Indiana was a classic case of good standards not actually having an impact in the classroom. You need a different way forward.

What a crock this point is. “A different way forward”?? Is “forward” higher test scores? Petrilli assures Indiana’s Senate education committee that “forward” is the direction CCSS will take them– even though Indiana’s “superior” standards did not take Indiana there. It is not clear that putting any state on the CCSS path will improve achievement– yet here we are, a nation on the unproven CCSS path… and Petrilli doing his best to sound knowledgeable as he talks unresearched, unanchored nonsense.

In its 2010 grading of standards, Fordham ignored comparing state scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with its state standards ratings. The result was no logical connection whatsoever between NAEP scores and Fordham’s ratings of state standards. Indeed, some states with standards that Fordham rated poorly actually had high scores on NAEP.

In Indiana’s case, the NAEP scores were not among the highest in the nation (see here for Indiana’s 2009 and 2011 NAEP scores)– but Petrilli advises no return to Indiana’s previous standards because somehow, the lesser-rated CCSS could manifest in “higher student achievement.”

Come again??

This is the same Fordham Institute that believes in grading teachers using student test scores. However, I have yet to read the article on Petrilli’s testimony that it is possible for teachers to be “superior” yet their students’ test scores to not manifest the reality of “best teachers.”

He will defend standards as being “some of the best in the country” despite low test scores, but he has yet to extend such faith-based logic to teachers– and this despite the well-documented problems associated with using test scores to grade teachers, known as value-added modeling (VAM).

On to Petrilli’s third point of scoring the Indiana sale on behalf of CCSS:

3. Third, if you decide to opt out of the Common Core, you will be opting Indiana’s teachers and students out of an opportunity to participate in the incredible wave of innovation that these standards are unleashing. It’s as if the whole world is moving to smart phones and tablets while you’re sticking with a rotary. [Emphasis added.]

What “wave of innovation”?? The “opportunity for “CCSS-infused tests and teacher evaluations” that Fordham’s Chester Finn alludes to here in referring to California (with standards also rated as superior to CCSS)?

Implementation is a boring topic but here (as with most bold reforms of complex, sluggish institutions) it’s crucial. The past quarter century offers sad examples of states with praiseworthy standards and lousy academic results, with California being the woeful poster child. This breakdown is due to the plain fact that the state never infused its own standards into tests, requirements for promotion and graduation, teacher certification and evaluations, school ratings, college admissions, or much else. [Emphasis added.]

So, the question becomes, what is next in the CCSS push to “ensure CCSS infusion”?

I broach the topic in this post on the push for a centralized agency to control “CCSS-approved” curriculum. It’s logical to assume that if CCSS is being billed as The Answer for All States, its Gates-funded proponents would do all that is necessary to make CCSS “succeed”– including micromanage curriculum in states across the nation.

As for Petrilli’s appeal for a CCSS-bound Indiana, his oiled reasoning offers no assurance that CCSS will deliver on what the CCSS website promotes as the CCSS “guarantee”:

The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. [Emphasis added.]

CCSS will ensure skills and knowledge– got it?

However…

…if CCSS doesn’t deliver– according to the CCSS license– the CCSS owners, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)– cannot legally be held responsible.

In other words, NGA and CCSSO have effectively blocked themselves from the brunt of any lawsuits should CCSS not deliver according to the glowing promises made on the CCSS website or promoted by the CCSS talking points.

What will Petrilli do then?

I guess we’ll have to see what Bill Gates pays Fordham to do next in order to know for sure. Rest assured, however: No matter what Fordham does, it will package it as “excellence.”

Educators Set Student Goals By Race?

The Florida Board of Education has a history of lowering educational standards and has now come under-fire for doing so based upon a student’s race. CBS Tampa reports, “The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.”

“On Tuesday [October 9, 2012], the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post,” states CBS Tampa.

This decision has raised eyebrows, some calling it racist. But is it racism or reality? Is lowering goals the right way to deal with student achievement in reading and math?

This issue is not new, rather it has been swept under the rug since 1994. Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their seminal book on cognitive ability The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life state, “The question is how to redistribute in ways that increase the chances for people at the bottom of society to take control of their lives, to be engaged meaningfully in their communities, and to find valued places for themselves.”

Herrnstein and Murray found, “Ethnic differences in higher education, occupations, and wages are strikingly diminished after controlling for IQ. Often they vanish. In this sense, America has equalized these central indicators of social success.”

Herrnstein and Murray asked, “What are the odds that a black or Latino with an IQ of 103 – the average IQ of all high school graduates – completed high school? The answer is that a youngster from either minority group had a higher probability of graduating from high school than a white, if all of them had IQs of 103: The odds were 93 percent and 91 percent for blacks and Latinos respectively, compared to 89 percent for whites.”

The key factor in setting goals is IQ. Is it time for Florida to lead the way and reintroduce IQ testing for all students?

Herrnstein and Murray concluded:

  • We have tried to point out that a small segment of the population accounts for such a large proportion of those [social] problems. To the extent that the [social] problems of this small segment are susceptible to social-engineering solutions at all, should be highly targeted.
  • The vast majority of Americans can run their own lives just fine, and [public] policy should above all be constructed so that it permits them to do so.
  • Much of the policy toward the disadvantaged starts from the premise that interventions can make up for genetic or environmental disadvantages, and that premise is overly optimistic.
  • Cognitive ability, so desperately denied for so long, can best be handled – can only be handled – by a return to individualism.
  • Cognitive partitioning will continue. It cannot be stopped, because the forces driving it cannot be stopped.
  • Americans can choose to preserve a society in which every citizen has access to the central satisfactions of life. Its people can, through an interweaving of choice and responsibility, create valued places for themselves in their worlds.

Herrnstein and Murray found, “Inequality of endowments, including intelligence, is a reality.”

“Trying to pretend that inequality does not really exist has led to disaster. Trying to eradicate inequality with artificially manufactured outcomes has led to disaster. It is time for America once again to try living with inequality, as life is lived: understanding that each human being has strengths and weaknesses, qualities to admire and qualities we do not admire, competencies and in-competencies,  assets and debits; that the success of each human life is not measured externally but internally; that of all the rewards we can confer on each other, the most precious is a place as a valued fellow citizen,” found Herrnstein and Murray.

Finally, Herrnstein and Murray wrote, “Of all the uncomfortable topics we have explored, a pair of the most uncomfortable ones are that a society with a higher mean IQ is also likely to be a society with fewer social ills and brighter economic prospects, and that the most effective way to raise the IQ of a society is for smarter women to have higher birth rates than duller women.” Shocking words in 1994 and indeed even more so today. Is it time to have a national public debate on cognitive abilities?

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