Live from New York: Is Participating in Common Core Asking Children and Teachers to Commit Educational Suicide?

Lemmings Dear Bill and Melinda,

Let’s stare the cold hard results of the first round of ELA and math Common Core state tests from New York right in the eye.  Fewer than one third of all students who took the exams passed.  By these new “more rigorous” Common Core tests, New York’s state criteria aligned with NAEPtwo thirds of all children who took the exams in New York are now labeled as FAILURES, and in Rochester, for example, just 5 percent of students scored proficient in math.

Now, flash forward to the 2013-2014 high school graduating class (should this testing program be allowed to continue); 2/3 of the children in NY state who have attended school for 13 years will not be allowed to graduate high school based on these criteria. Then, with New York’s new teacher evaluation system, we ask you, how many teachers will be fired in the future based on these test results? What are children and teachers to do?

Are we expected to stand in line like lemmings and throw ourselves off the cliff in order to support corporate profits? Is participating in the Common Core package asking children and teachers to commit educational suicide? People reading this for the first time might wonder why we ask you these questions.

It is no secret that you, through the Gates Foundation, backed the initial investments in the development of the Common Core State [sic] Standards.   It is also no secret that you continue to back them financially, even to the tune of granting our teacher unions millions to support their full implementation.   In a recent guest post, “Common Core-uption? Uncommon conflict of interest!” on Fred Klonsky’s blog, H.D. Worth notes:

“Last month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $6,309,100 in grants to the NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education. The money is earmarked to help implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).”

We also know that the Gates Foundation, listed as a partner in the AFT’s Common Core brochure, has contributed money to the national teachers union to garner support for the Common Core. I wonder, is it concerning to you at all that our unions appear to be assisting in this “educational suicide” by being complicit with you on Common Core?

We’re really wondering exactly what is the intention here, but the effect caused by corporate education reform is very clear.  If you and our readers don’t really know what happens next, let me help paint the picture for you.

First, we can all agree that there exists an “opportunity gap” vs. an “achievement gap”. Even Arne Duncan is beginning to call it that.   We have proven via the NY test scores that the gap will only increase with more rigor, and harder tests with more difficult criteria used to score them.   We can predict that more kids will fail.  Based on New York’s results: It appears at least 2/3 of ALL children will likely fail.

Corporate reform has also tied these scores to teacher evaluations across the country.  We can predict that more teachers will be fired, when even less than 2/3 of their class fails.

Through NCLB and Race to the Top, these policies are then used to close public schools. We can predict that more schools will be failed and subsequently closed.

That makes it easy for you and the corporate reformers grab the land,  and/or turn the former public schools into private charter schools, all the while making big bucks.  We can predict that more public schools will be turned into private charter schools.  Never mind that the charter schools in New York did not fair well on the tests, while that seems to be beside the point, since the charter schools are typically not regulated in the same way… private, you know.

The end result?  We can predict that more students will drop out of high school and fail to graduate.  These “disposable youth” get to either go to prisons, which you have now invested in,  or join the line of unemployed teachers and youth to get jobs at McDonald’s or Walmart.  This may not be your “intention”, but it certainly is the “effect” caused by your reforms.  Speaking of “intentions,” my friend Arthur has a pertinent question for you:

“What sort of person wants so many kids to fail?”

Arthur just happens to be one of those teachers impacted by this CCSS “suicide mission” in New York, where he was published in the New York Daily News.  Here is an excerpt from his Common Core tests are not the answer in child-centered education:

“I’m trying to imagine what my principal would tell me if I proposed giving tests that caused more than half of my kids to fail.  My principal is a big guy, and there are a lot of windows in his office.  I envision myself flying out of at least one of them.

Yet that is what just happened in New York State. What sort of person wants so many kids to fail?

I’d argue it was someone who didn’t much like kids. In child-centered education, you don’t treat kids like that. But the 30-point drop in scores was predicted, and then realized…

…Are our kids failures? Have schools and teachers failed? Have parents failed?

If there is failure, it’s on the part of those who set the curriculum. It’s those who hired teachers and ran schools. It’s those who boasted of the very successes they now paint as worthless.

If anyone has failed, it’s the very people who now tell us Common Core is the answer to all our problems.”  — Arthur Goldstein,  ESL Teacher, New York

Bill and Melinda, how long will it take for this “effect” to spread across America in the states that have signed up for Common Core?  Are you ready to be the CAUSE of this EFFECT?

I will tell you my intentions out loud.  I don’t want 2/3 of the children of America to feel the shame of failure.  This is the kind of shame that leads to a lifetime of problems.  I also don’t want the parents of 2/3 of the children of America to feel the shame of failure.  I don’t want teachers, principals, and entire communities to feel this shame either.

Do you know what it feels like to sit at an assembly while our principals in high poverty schools stand before their communities to tell them year-after-year, that both their children’s state test scores and our schools are “FAILURES”?

Could you possibly know what it does to a community when they internalize this message year – after year  – after year?  I can, since I work in one of these “schools in improvement” in your back yard, where poverty is growing yearly.

I can tell you that when I look out on the audience  of children, parents, and teachers — and into my principal’s eyes — the humiliation is unbearable and misplaced.  I believe the shame belongs to you and to the corporate reformers.  Perhaps you could come visit my school during this assembly and look into the eyes of our community as my principal shares our test score results.  Perhaps then YOU could internalize that shame that belongs to all corporate reformers, for all of us.

I don’t want the principals and teachers of America to feel that they have failed in their noble calling, and I don’t want any of public schools “turned around” by your policies to be labeled as “failures” or closed.  I  don’t want our unions to “unintentionally” assist you in this “suicide mission”.

I hope that people wake up to the HOAX of corporate reform before this mission of yours is accomplished, intended or not.  I hope all of America reads Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error:  The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, which will be published in September.

Common Core is NOT the Answer

Bill and Melinda,  we are not lemmings to be experimented with by those in power.  We are not failures.  It is time for the public to get out of this “lemming line”.   It is time for our unions to quit “assisting” in this “educational suicide”.  I predict that the Common Core is NOT the answer, and with all my heart, I hope you fail in this “effect” — ending public education — whether intentional or not.

Sincerely,

Susan DuFresne, Co-author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

About Teachers'LettersToBillGates

Our mission is to create a dialogue with Bill and Melinda Gates in order to achieve a democratic influence on public education through the voices of education researchers, professors of education, administrators, school board members, professional teachers, parents, students, and community members. We would appreciate Bill and Melinda's feedback and want to influence their education policy and financial decisions by adding democratic voices to create meaningful relevant education for children.
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4 Responses to Live from New York: Is Participating in Common Core Asking Children and Teachers to Commit Educational Suicide?

  1. Dave Greene says:

    This is just the next step down the road after taking the federal bribe to accept RTTT money. It is a shame. When the NYT published a sample question from each of the 3-8 th grade math tests, I gave them to some of my relatives and friends, all of whom have either masters and Ph.Ds.

    The result. All felt anxiety about the questions. Some got one wrong. Many had to reread more than one of the questions a few times.

    All expressed a great surprise at the requirements in each grade. The area of a rhombus in sixth grade? I learned that in the sophomore year at the Bronx High School of Science. Word problems in 3rd? Ok if you can read at at sophisticated level? Exponents? Factors? Really?…..

    Finally, the most asked questions were.. Who the hell made this test ? It’s is the expected curriculum?
    Last thoughts? As most said….” This is crazy!”

  2. Rosalie Friend, Ph.D. says:

    We must wonder why the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has ignored the entire body of social science research on child development, learning, and instruction and spent huge amounts of money to facilitate the adoption of an untested unrealistic set of standards for our children’s schools.
    People who saw questions from this year’s NY State tests which were supposedly aligned with the common core standards, said that the questions were needlessly complex and not developmentally appropriate. As an educational psychologist who has taught assessment, I want the public to know that because there is no standard unit of measurement, tests of school achievement can be easily manipulated.
    When you measure a child’s height, an inch is always an inch. When you try to measure school learning, there is no set standard for what children should learn or how they can show that they learned it. This is why standardized tests can be manipulated by politicians and businessmen. We should return to hiring only licensed teachers whose preparation includes assessment. We should trust them to evaluate the child’s work in every medium over the full year of classes. A portfolio of student work can be used to support the teacher’s judgement of what the child has achieved.

  3. Nikki says:

    So basically Bill Gates can not keep up with his competitor in computer land so…he decides to exploit children. Very unethical indeed.

  4. Michael Ashley says:

    The Gates’ do not understand the ability or lack of to learn and reason in concrete vs abstract thought is based on age/developmental level and you can’t speed it up just because you want young learners to learn at higher levels. The commissioner of education in N.Y. state is also clueless to this fact.

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