Governor Markell on NPR Talking About Common Core

Filed in Delaware by on August 3, 2014

Yesterday morning, I heard the Governor on NPR in a quick (4 minutes) interview on Common Core and the fact that there is some movement in a few states to disown the curriculum/process/name. I can’t really tell what is being walked away from really. But it looks like Governor Markell is not expecting the standards to go away entirely, just the name:

SIMON: So if a lot of states pull out of the Common Core, is there really a Common Core?

MARKELL: Well, it depends what they replace it with. I mean, I think a lot of states, you know, who are talking about getting rid of the Common Core are quite likely to replace it with something that looks quite similar. If they call it something else, that’s up to them. If they want to, you know, tweak the standards somewhat, that’s up to them as well. I can tell you, in Delaware we’re going forward because we really think it makes the most sense for our students.

And then there’s this:

SIMON: Governor, what do you say to those critics, and they run from conservative groups to, interestingly, Louis C.K. the comedian, who is rarely called a conservative, who say there’s just something wrong with trying to make education, which is a process of curiosity and inquiry, into a program that standardizes knowledge?

MARKELL: Well, I mean, to me, there’s certainly nothing wrong with saying, OK, we expect, you know, students at this grade level to have an understanding of calculus II, or that we expect them to have an understanding of European history, or that we expect them to be able to write, you know, a well-structured essay or be able to do poetry. If people are objecting to that and calling that standardized knowledge, I respectfully disagree. I think, you know, we could – if you look at what it’s going to take for our country to be successful in the future, we do have to have certain expectations. That being said, what is not at all being driven from any kind of top-down basis is what are the curricular materials? What is the approach the teacher should take in the classroom? Those kinds of decisions we appropriately are leaving up to local districts.

Now in this, I think that the Governor has a point. I don’t get why it is a problem to tell students (and their parents) that they should have XX basket of skills and knowledge by the end of the year. At the risk of sounding like a complete oldhead, I know this was true for the schools I went to and if you did not have most of these skills or knowledge, you failed that grade and were held back. You could not go to the next grade because you did not have the skills/knowledge to try to master the next level of skills/knowledge. So I still don’t get what is wrong with having standards for learning for each grade. And maybe even standards for student level, too.

I *do* get that the implementation of those standards (both teaching and assessment) has been no where near as orderly as the standards they are supposed to reach appear to be. There’s been plenty of opportunism on the part of the companies trying to be poised to make alot of money here and alot of incompetence on the part of school boards and curriculum chiefs in implementing these standards. But I suspect the standards won’t go away (they’ll be renamed) and I’m certain that the effort to exploit the river of money that is out there to get to these standards won’t stop. Still, I don’t know how you do education — mandate it for 12 years — and not have a blueprint for what is to be accomplished in each of those years.

Tags: , ,

About the Author ()

"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." -Shirley Chisholm

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. puck says:

    There are several issues with Common Core:

    1. The learning standards themselves,
    2. The tests used to measure achievement of those standards
    3. The fact that the tests are used in teacher job evaluation
    4. Overreliance on those tests for classifying students
    5. Tying implementation of Common Core to Federal funding
    6. And the usual bitching about Federal control.

    The Governor is correct that the learning standards themselves are a good thing. If you clean up the testing and add flexibility for how it is used, most of the objections disappear.

    It is true that national standards will turn education into a national market and generate a “river of money” for corporations, who will take their well-honed exploitative business models developed for other markets and apply them to education. But instead of defeating the standards, we need to find a way to divert that river of money into the classroom.

  2. jason330 says:

    Markell, Cassandra and Puck are all correct. I’d just link two items. The mind boggling poor roll out was based on the fact that the large publishers (Pearson, Scholastic) wanted to tap into that coherent national market and its river of money sooner rather than later. This should have been an eight to ten year roll out, not a 2 year roll out.

  3. John Young says:

    Why would we force cumulative based standards into all 12 grades at once. 2-12 are immediately disadvantaged, especially by the misused tests.

    Poor planning is indeed the hallmark of this movement, and our governor is absolutely part of the problem on that account.

    School boards were given zero say, and zero training and were effectively 100% bypassed. Not a problem, unless you think having a clue about them would help our decision making…

  4. John Young says:

    What is the approach the teacher should take in the classroom? Those kinds of decisions we appropriately are leaving up to local districts.

    except if you don’t participate in our teacher bonus program, we’ll take $2.4 million unrelated monies from you. A real laugher that line is.

  5. cassandra_m says:

    Then I wonder why the *news* is about the horrors of Common Core and not about the botched implementation? Letting the implementation hide behind the political theater never gets to fixing the implementation and continues to push the theater into the spotlight. Where lots of people get to ignore it (because of the crazy voices involved) and who are never pointed to how badly this is being implemented. One of the things that is getting some play in this story is how this has sparked some unity among left and right. Except I suspect that the real story is that the right’s handlers came up with a boogeyman story that the left was susceptible to as well and got the left to not pay much attention to the real action in this game.

  6. John Young says:

    The unity is only attached to the word anti. The reasons could not be more different.

    Conservatives (Tea Party) are almost 100% entranced by federal overreach and states’ rights.

    Progressives have grievous concerns over developmental appropriateness by grade/ standard. They also have issues with transparency, the misuse of the testing data, and lack of evidence suggesting actual efficacy.

    Conservative Dems love this accountability play as do most Reagan Republicans.

  7. Steve Newton says:

    cassandra, Perhaps I can explain some of the issues with the standards themselves, leaving aside all of the questions about Pearson, Scholastic, and ETS dominating the process. I speak from the perspective of having co-chaired the Delaware Social Studies Curriculum Standards Commission under Governors Castle and Carper; having been the primary writer/editor of those standards; and having been involved in curriculum development, standards-based education, and teacher training now for over two decades (I didn’t know I had gotten that old).

    First, it is a misconception to say that there were no standards to begin with. In the major academic areas (ELA, Science, Math, and Social Studies) there have always been standards, but they were advisory at a national level. For example, most math standards created by anybody (including CCSS) over the last 20 years has been based on those created by NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). Individual states and districts have disagreed over when items should be introduced or mastered (do you first offer Algebra in the 7th, 8th, or 9th grade?), but by and large there is a pre-existing accepted intellectual framework. Otherwise, quite frankly, there wouldn’t be nationally published textbooks.

    Second, however, some standards areas are tougher than others to reach consensus about. The current ELA standards don’t really represent a consensus of education professionals about what all students should know and be able to do at any given level–they represent the consensus of one large faction of education professionals about that. There are others, and they are still intellectually fighting this one out; what CCSS represents for the faction that got involved at the start is the ability to make their position orthodoxy by decree rather than peer review. This is not to say that the CCSS ELA standards are necessarily junk because of that, but it is to say that to assert that this represents a consensus of professionals in the field is misleading.

    Third, I do object to CCSS extending its reach (as it is starting to do in New York and other large states) into the realm of Social Studies. There are two different splits in that world. One is conceptual: is Social Studies an umbrella term for the individual studies of History, or is it a separate interdisciplinary discipline all its own? [I fall into category 1; the National Council of Social Studies falls in category 2]. The second split involves whether or not we should be teaching the “right” answers for Civics, History, or Economics, and who controls determining those answers. This is where Social Studies comes very close to being indoctrination, whether advanced from right or left. I far prefer relative anarchy about what students should learn, with common agreement on what skills they should master to do their own independent learning. EVERY set of Social Studies standards (including my own) has left me feeling really uncomfortable about this issue. I do know that I become far LESS comfortable when the people doing the determining about what you should know, as Governor Markell says, about European History are big corporations.

    Fourth, there is a real issue of scope and extent, not just implementation. If these are truly Common CORE standards, then in reality they should be least common denominator standards–what any kid will need to know to get a high school diploma without expectations of preparation for college. Common Core should be the basic stuff that EVERYBODY has to know, not a hidden-agenda college prep curriculum that most teachers will find nearly impossible to complete (even given resources) in a mixed or mainstreamed classroom in a given year. Research at BU in the 1990s indicated that once “core” standards exceeded about 40% of what was necessary to be mastered to pass a class, they ceased to be standards and became a de facto curriculum. Common Core is a curriculum framework, or a curriculum map if you will, but CCSS is not “standards” in the sense that the word has been consistently used in educational parlance for the past two decades.

    I could go on, but I doubt anybody besides cassandra and John Young is still reading (masochists both, in their different ways), but this is my honest best attempt to give you a global overview of what’s intellectually troubling about CCSS. In order to make the case definitely I’d need a document as long as the CCSS themselves. I do have problems with the revenue streams, with the overreach, and with the implementation (just for the record), but I promised at the beginning to play fair and stick to the standards themselves.

  8. Don’t worry Steve, not just John Young and Cassandra are reading this! As anyone who has read my blog knows, common core and special education are like oil and water. They don’t mix. How can you have “Common” meaning the same, and an IEP for Individualized education? The testing coming out in the next 9 months will be the true test of common core, and many students will fail. But the state expects that. Why would any state put children in a position where they are expected to do worse? So they can have an excuse to make drastic changes. Mark my words: special needs children AND regular children will suffer greatly before, during and after these tests.
    Markell is jumping on this because of his Rodel connections, and the fact that his state received tons of money in Race To The Top funding. There is a very sinister plan in motion, and many of us know it. Not to sound all conspiracy theory here, but everything I have predicted with this has come true so far. Watch the curricular materials slowly start to change, as more and more good teachers leave the profession, and they start hiring robots from Teach For America. They will read from a script, and everyone will be taught the same thing. What happens when a student is sick for a few days? Will he or she get the script?
    Nothing about common core, or whatever they want to call it, makes common sense. Unless you don’t care about what this will do to children. Stop trying to make elementary school kids “college ready”. It’s a Ponzi scheme at the cruelest level.

  9. kavips says:

    It’s as if you wanted to get rid of segregation in a Southern Georgia county back in the 60’s, and appointed the Grand Dragon of that state’s KKK to do it…. You didn’t know. You thought: he’s a businessman, fine outstanding man, dabbles a little in local government, nice family; he’s the perfect person to make this happen… (not).

    Desegregation, like the broad aims of Common Core, is a good thing.
    The people in charge of implementing it, not so good.

    As we discovered, it finally took a black preacher to derail segregation.
    We should have used teachers to plan and implement Common Core…..

  10. Bane says:

    They couldn’t get teachers (experienced teachers) to plan and implement Common Core, because education from school to school, state to state, is not common. So they had to go around and through the teachers.

    Cass was right, although I don’t think she realized why she was right. She used a great example about her school growing up. If you didn’t meet the requirements you were held back. Cass, your school did not need a national common core program that punishes entire school districts because you did not meet the standards. They were able to make those decisions on their own. However, now-a-days you can’t even keep students back to repeat grades if they don’t reach the standards. You have to move them along. Then when the 6th grade teacher receives kids that should have been held back in the 4th grade, she’s punished because they don’t meet the standards. Education has been failing over the last 40 years because government continues to strangle it. If we do not turn the reigns back to to the communities, we will force ourselves into a privatized system. Jack Markell is not an educator… we should stop acting like he is. He’s a businessman.