Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the CCSS? This is not data-driven decision making.
This is a decision grasping for data… Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence.
– Dr. Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall University, NJ
In the Education Administration Journal, the AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice (Winter 2011 / Volume 7, No. 4) there’s an article by Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University that clearly explains the utter lack of empirical evidence for adopting Common Core. The full article, “Common Core: An Example of Data-less Decision Making,” is available online, and following are some highlights:
Although a majority of U.S. states and territories have “made the CCSS the legal law of their land in terms of the mathematics and language arts curricula,” and although “over 170 organizations, education-related and corporations alike, have pledged their support,” still “the evidence presented by its developers, the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), seems lacking,” and research on the topic suggests “the CCSS and those who support them are misguided,” writes Dr. Tienken.
“The standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children,” he writes.
Tienken and many other academics have said that Common Core adoption begs this question: “Surely there must be quality data available publically to support the use of the CCSS to transform, standardize, centralize and essentially de-localize America‘s public education system,” and “surely there must be more compelling and methodologically strong evidence available not yet shared with the general public or education researchers to support the standardization of one of the most intellectually diverse public education systems in the world. Or, maybe there is not?”
Tienken calls incorrect the notion that American education is lagging behind international competitors and does not believe the myth that academic tests can predict future economic competitiveness.
“Unfortunately for proponents of this empirically vapid argument it is well established that a rank on an international test of academic skills and knowledge does not have the power to predict future economic competitiveness and is otherwise meaningless for a host of reasons.”
He observes: “Tax, trade, health, labor, finance, monetary, housing, and natural resource policies, to name a few, drive our economy, not how students rank on the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS)” or other tests.
Most interestingly, Tienken observes that the U.S. has had a highly internationally competitive system up until now. “The U.S. already has one of the highest percentages of people with high school diplomas and college degrees compared to any other country and we had the greatest number of 15 year-old students in the world score at the highest levels on the 2006 PISA science test (OECD, 2008; OECD, 2009; United Nations, 2010). We produce more researchers and scientists and qualified engineers than our economy can employ, have even more in the pipeline, and we are one of the most economically competitive nations on the globe (Gereffi & Wadhwa, 2005; Lowell, et al., 2009; Council on Competitiveness, 2007; World Economic Forum, 2010).
Tienken calls Common Core “a decision in search of data” ultimately amounting to “nothing more than snake oil.” He is correct. The burden of proof is on the proponents to show that this system is a good one.
He writes: “Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the CCSS? This is not data-driven decision making. This is a decision grasping for data… Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. Many of America‘s education associations already pledged support for the idea and have made the CCSS major parts of their national conferences and the programs they sell to schools.
This seems like the ultimate in anti-intellectual behavior coming from what claim to be intellectual organizations now acting like charlatans by vending products to their members based on an untested idea and parroting false claims of standards efficacy.”
Further, Dr. Tienken reasons:
“Where is the evidence that national curriculum standards will cause American students to score at the top of international tests or make them more competitive? Some point to the fact that many of the countries that outrank the U.S. have national, standardized curricula. My reply is there are also nations like Canada, Australia, Germany, and Switzerland that have very strong economies, rank higher than the U.S. on international tests of mathematics and science consistently, and do not have a mandated, standardized set of national curriculum standards.”
Lastly, Dr. Tienken asks us to look at countries who have nationalized and standardized education, such as China and Singapore: “China, another behemoth of centralization, is trying desperately to crawl out from under the rock of standardization in terms of curriculum and testing (Zhao, 2009) and the effects of those practices on its workforce. Chinese officials recognize the negative impacts a standardized education system has had on intellectual creativity. Less than 10% of Chinese workers are able to function in multi-national corporations (Zhao, 2009).
I do not know of many Chinese winners of Nobel Prizes in the sciences or in other the intellectual fields. China does not hold many scientific patents and the patents they do hold are of dubious quality (Cyranoski, 2010).
The same holds true for Singapore. Authorities there have tried several times to move the system away from standardization toward creativity. Standardization and testing are so entrenched in Singapore that every attempt to diversify the system has failed, leaving Singapore a country that has high test scores but no creativity. The problem is so widespread that Singapore must import creative talent from other countries”.
According to Dr. Tienken, Common Core is a case of oversimplification. It is naive to believe that all children would benefit from mastering the same set of skills, or that it would benefit the country in the long run, to mandate sameness. He observes that Common Core is “an Orwellian policy position that lacks a basic understanding of diversity and developmental psychology. It is a position that eschews science and at its core, believes it is appropriate to force children to fit the system instead of the system adjusting to the needs of the child.”
Oh, how we agree!
Since when do we trust bureaucracies more than we trust individuals to make correct decisions inside a classroom or a school district? Since when do we agree force children to fit a predetermined system, instead of having a locally controlled, flexible system that can adjust to the needs of a child?
What madness (or money?) has persuaded even our most American-as-apple-pie organizations — even the national PTA, the U.S. Army, the SAT, most textbook companies and many governors– to advocate for Common Core, when there never was a real shred of valid evidence upon which to base this country-changing decision?
If you have not been able to attend one of the Common Core presentations put on by our group, we taped Saturday night’s presentation by Renee Braddy, Alisa Ellis, and Christel Swasey. It’s just under 1 hour in length and gives a fantastic overview of the true Common Core agenda. Watch full screen for HD resolution.
Jared Carman put together a great opt-out form you can print and send to the state notifying them that they may not compel your child to participate in computer adaptive testing and may not share your child’s personal information with AIR, the federal government, or any other 3rd party. If everyone would print one of these out for each of your children and mail to the state superintendent, it would certainly be helpful to show our officials that we want them to take this matter seriously.
Not sure if you want your child to take a computer adaptive test? Not sure what the harm is?
“We’ve been absolutely staggered by realizing that the computer has the capability to act as if it were ten of the top psychologists working with one student.You’ve seen the tip of the iceberg.Won’t it be wonderful when the child in the smallest county in the most distant area or in the most confused urban setting can have the equivalent of the finest school in the world on that terminal and no one can get between that child and that computer?”
Dustin H. Heuston, “Discussion-Developing the Potential of an Amazing Tool,” Schooling and Technology, Vol. 3, Planning for the Future: A Collaborative Model (Southeastern Regional Council for Educational Improvement), p. 8.
Alisa Ellis is sharing this great letter she used to opt her children out of state testing. You can easily modify this to your needs and opt out your children as well. Happening right now in schools, it’s CRT tests. By next year it will probably be the AIR/SAGE adaptive tests unless we succeed in getting those thrown out. These tests are not only dangerous for behavioral tracking, but have other concerns as well as they are designed to have all children hit 50% scores by increasing or lowering the difficulty based on their performance on each question. Some students may only have a 15 question test, while others could be forced to answer 100 questions to complete the test.
I would add one word of caution. Some teachers may use the state test in some way for student grading. You may want to include a statement such as, “if you plan to use this test in my child’s grade for some reason, I ask that you make an exception and not factor this state test into their final class grade.”
The opt out letter I sent my child’s teachers (I copied the Governor, state superintendent, local superintendent, and principal):
Ms. ________, Ms. ________, and Ms. _______,
________ thoroughly enjoys all of your classes. Thank you.
I’m guessing you know my name and the research I’ve been doing into the education reform taking place in the United States. If not, I’d be happy to share my research with you.
I am writing to let you know that ______ will not be taking the CRT’s this year. I recognize that there is nothing new about the testing taking place this year but feel that I must take a stand. This is nothing personal with you or your teaching. You are excellent and I appreciate your willingness to spend time educating children.
I have been studying the increasing push for data. While I recognize that data has great value, I don’t agree with the blatant disregard by the Federal Department of Ed of parental authority. Last year’s changes at the Federal level to privacy laws cause me great concern.
January of 2012, the FERPA (Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act – governing what student records schools can share) laws were changed due to a request by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
• Page 52 of the new FERPA document outlines 11 different ways Personally Identifiable Information (PII) can be shared by schools without parental or student consent.
In Utah we accepted $9.6 million in Stimulus Funds to develop our State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).
SLDS FAQ sheet: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.pdf
We have been assured that no one wants to release our children’s information but the fact is the State of UT does not currently have the proper protections in place to prevent Personally Identifiable Data to be released. Someone’s word isn’t good enough when it comes to our children, we must have the proper protections in place. Until there is a remedy to this problem my children will not be participating in end of year testing. Terms like “de-identified data” and “dis-aggregate” data are not acceptable. There are so many data points being collected assigning a child a number does not protect their identity.
Utah may not currently be releasing student level data to private interest groups or the Federal Department of Ed but we have a system set up making that possible. Utah must shore up our student privacy laws and reject the data push currently stemming from the Department of Education.
I’ve heard many teachers upset about the more stringent teacher evaluations and placing blame on the legislators for these laws. The fact is, before the law was written the State office and Governor’s office accepted grants (see below) and waivers agreeing to such evaluations.
As a teacher you should also be aware that the SLDS grant UT (according to the SLDS FAQ page) accepted also called for tracking individual teachers, by name and linking teachers to students they teach and then tracking the student’s performance. This is in order to “…help identify teachers who are succeeding…and find teachers who are struggling…” I do not agree with so much emphasis being put on high-stakes testing when evaluating teachers. I’ll explain why below.
I have 7 very different and all very bright children. They all test differently. A test can never measure home life, stress in a child’s life, parental support or lack thereof, or sheer determination on the part of a child. It just can’t. I don’t support the notion that schools and teachers should be graded on these high-stakes test scores. This narrows the curriculum as teachers are forced to teach to the test. The NCLB waiver did not solve this problem created from NCLB.
My _______ scores very well on these test (top 8% in the Nation) and also does decent in school but falls dead center in his class. He never passed the GATE tests but has consistently competed with those GATE students since the 2nd grade.
My _______ child score fairly well on these tests, but not in the very top; yet, she has been the #1 student in her class for several years running due to hard work and determination. A test simply can’t measure one’s ability to work hard. She is not taking easy classes either.
_______ has a very high amplitude. He does well on tests and in school. My point is each child is different. A test, no matter how great, cannot measure a child’s worth.
Just to be clear, I am not opposed to testing but I am opposed to high stakes testing especially when it is collecting so much data on our children and being so heavily used to determine the effectiveness of a teacher.
I thank you for honoring my wishes. Tomorrow I will not be in town when the CRTs are being administered. ______ can be sent to sit in the office or library during testing. I trust that you will not punish _______ in any way, shape or form for my taking this stand. Please advise if the CRT was to be used toward his class grade. If this is the case, I hope we can come up with a solution at the local level without involving high-stakes testing. _______ is very bright and scored in the top 5% of the Nation in all subjects of the IOWA test a few years ago but I don’t believe that can truly measure what he is capable of.
You may want to take some time looking through the 200 page document from the Data Warehouse in UT http://www.schools.utah.gov/warehouse/Specifications/Warehouse-Data-Dictionary.aspx.
The National Center for Educational Data has scrubbed their site tonight so I can’t send you to see the 500 data points they recommend. http://nedm.sifassociation.org/datamodel_review/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentElementarySecondary
Thank you for your time,
A couple years ago, Investor’s Business Daily ran this graphic in a story entitled Education vs. Bureaucracy.
Both graphs tell a different but parallel story. In our race to accommodate the cries of “we need more funding” and “we need smaller classes,” (which largely came from the unions), legislators and chief executives raced to show that they are pro-education by funneling more and more money into the bureaucracy. Employment rates skyrocketed. Federal spending shot up in our “Race to Do Something.” In the end, what benefit did we actually see? Nothing changed. In fact, in spite of massive increases in employment and spending, class sizes barely nudged downward. Most jobs have expanded the bureaucracy for educrats doing research into what doesn’t work, and then justifying their jobs by pushing that into the classrooms.
The more top heavy a structure is, the more prone it is to fraud and waste because it is removed from the people impacted by their decisions. I’m 100% more careful with my money, than the federal government cares about the few thousand dollars I “voluntarily” give them. The same is true within state spending. At the local level, when you have money given directly to a school, they are going to be far more careful with those funds, than if that money is administered at the district or state level. It’s just common sense. What if legislators restored true local control of education where dollars would actually be more wisely spent?
An idea that isn’t working well
In Utah, we have something called School Community Councils (SCC). It’s comprised of a few parents who are elected by other parents in the school. A note is sent home by the school announcing the running, and the parents whose children remember to hand it to them have the opportunity to run in the election. The school then sends home ballots, and if your child remembers to give it to you, you can vote for other parents in the school that you think would do a good job on the council. In addition, the principal and a couple of teachers serve on the SCC, but state law mandates there must be more parents on the committee.
The intent of SCC’s is to work on school improvement programs. In reality, that happens very little. In Utah, schools have land trust money that may be a few thousand dollars, reaching into the low 5 figures. If my recollection is right, when I was on the local SCC, we had about $30,000 a year to allocate toward improving the school. It was a joke. We met 4 times during the year to discuss some things and the main thing we did was to allocate these funds. It went like this:
Principal: “OK, here’s the report with this year’s funding amount. What we did last year was spent $x thousands on teacher supplies because the teachers don’t have enough money for classroom supplies. We spent $Y on this activity for the kids which is a tradition at the school, and we spent $Z on textbook replacements and supplements that aren’t covered by other funds. I really think these things are important. Do you want to change anything or do what we did last year?”
SCC: “Hmmm, well, OK, if that’s the case, lets do what we did last year.”
Do SCC’s do other stuff? Yes, they can work on improving schools, but their power is really diminished.
What if we tried real local control?
What if instead of these weak SCC’s, we actually had a local school board at each school that was elected in real elections. For example, Charter Schools in Utah act as their own school districts. Instead of having a district school board above them, parents are elected to those boards and make decisions for the school and set policy just as a school district board does for all the schools in a district. Charter schools still lack the ability for real local control, but they do have greater autonomy than a district school.
With local elections, instead of a board of 7 parents looking over 81 schools (like in Alpine School District…and other large districts), that same board of several parents now looks over 1 school. Now you’ll find a board member in your neighborhood, probably just down the street, who you can share your concerns and ideas with that have real impact for your child.
What if each school’s elected board hired the principal instead of the district? The principal would then be accountable to the parents in the local community, instead of playing politics for his/her job with district bureaucrats.
What if instead of the state funding the state office of education and passing dollars down to district offices to take their cut and then pay for things in the schools, it was reversed. Take all the funding for education in Utah, divide by the number of students, and send it directly to the local schools based on enrollment figures. Then let those school boards determine how to best use those dollars at their school based on their budget. They could then determine salaries, curriculum materials, and purchase services from the district and state offices of education as needed. If the district provides a valuable service that enhances the education taking place in the classroom, then the school board would be inclined to purchase that service. If the state office of education provided a valuable service for the school, such as a state test that the school wanted to participate in to see how their children compare to other schools, then the school could pay for that service. Local budgets would give far more freedom and creativity to solving local problems at the school. Teacher salaries could see an increase as bureaucracy bloat found ways to slim down and provide only the needed services for the schools. Economies of scale could still easily be maintained in the same way schools run book orders for students. There’s a deadline and everyone purchasing from a given publisher can get bulk pricing.
Local school boards at the school level would also have the freedom to try things that aren’t being done at other district schools.
They would be free to attract students from other neighborhoods who have an interest in something this particular school offers like a special language class or something.
They would be free to give latitude to teachers to teach to the student’s interests, instead of teaching to the high-stakes standardized tests.
They would be free to adopt higher standards than the minimums offered by the state and not worry about the consequences of standardized testing.
They would be free to alert parents to the fact that their program is higher than the state’s minimum standards, and perhaps because it’s not in the same exact sequence as the state standards, their children might not do as well on standardized tests as other children, but that in the end, their children would actually come out far ahead.
They would be able to more closely listen to parent’s concerns about curriculum, teachers, or the principal, and make local decisions regarding real issues impacting the school.
As it is now, nothing will ever change. Everyone who thinks pumping more money into the same model of education will solve problems is insane by definition. Real structural changes must happen or nothing will ever change. No parent ever demanded from legislators that their child be given high stakes adaptive testing in the classroom and put into a database so they can have their personal information tracked over time to tell them what job they should go into. But in an effort to show accountability for dollars spent, legislators have put the imposing structure into place. It’s time we tried freedom in education. It’s time we restored real local control.
“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense (italics mine)
If you can get past the tradition of thinking that public schools operate the way they do because they’ve always done so and it must always be so, you’ll understand why education and schooling are not the same thing. This 3 minute video will show you the animated history of where our modern public school system came from.
“I don’t like the curriculum the school is using”
“I’m worried about our child’s personal information being part of a government database”
“I don’t feel comfortable with my child in that class”
“Who says that’s the best way to teach my children?”
“Maybe we should consider homeschooling”
“I could never homeschool”
If you have ever thought or said any of these things, this article is for you. (Which should probably be about 99% of you)
First off, here’s a success story to be amazed at. It’s a family that sent 6 children to college by age 12 by homeschooling them and just encouraging them to study the things they had an interest in. Remarkable.
I want to be very clear that if you homeschool or are contemplating homeschooling to get away from Common Core, you will be doing your children a great service, though you may not fully succeed in avoiding everything Common Core. As we’ve stated before, they are coming for homeschoolers because they don’t want families to have the freedom to teach their children non-government approved topics at home. Our current administration is trying to deport a German family (The Romeikes) and make an example of them because this Christian family fled Germany where homeschooling is outlawed, and they want to homeschool their children and teach them their values.
That said, there are great reasons to homeschool. If you’ve wondered about homeschooling but weren’t sure, please watch this video below from last year’s Agency-Based Education (ABE) conference where Gayle Ruzicka talks about homeschooling her children. Gayle is president of the Utah Eagle Forum. She’s an amazing lady who has battled tirelessly for years at the legislature AND homeschooled her children all along the way, often in the balconies or cafeteria at the capitol. If you have ever contemplated homeschooling or wondered if it could work for you, you owe it to yourself to watch her video and see if she doesn’t convince you to try it out. Below it are several homeschooling program resources you can consider. I strongly encourage you to visit the Agency-Based Education website and get on the mailing list (extremely low volume) as it is the antithesis of compulsory education used in the school system today. Compulsory education must end. If I have no natural right to go to my neighbor’s house and demand that the parents educate their children in a certain way, I cannot delegate that power to government to forcibly take children from homes and have them state educated. Nobody has the right and responsibility to educate children but their own parents who have that duty from God. Do not fall into the trap of thinking, “how will those children be educated if some parents don’t force them to school?” As Thomas Jefferson said, “it is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible asportation and education of the infant against the will of the father.” If you want more information on this, please see my presentation at the ABE conference on Ending Compulsory Education.
There are many homeschool resources available. Tons of programs, loads of content, and if you’ve never done it before, you may feel quite lost. That’s how my wife and I felt starting homeschooling. We were forced into it due to a daughter’s serious illness. Soon she was joined by another younger child who was ill for a period of time, and then revealed after the guilt got to her, that after she got better she continued to fake the illness because she didn’t want to go back to public school and wanted to be homeschooled. She was 9, and repented, so we’re all good…
So I’m going to post some resources for you to consider, and if you’re a homeschooler and want to share your resources and thoughts, please chime in with your comments below. Many homeschoolers just use a selection of resources which can be obtained all over the place according to your children’s needs and interests.
I’m going to start off with my friend Kristen Chevrier’s blog, Homeschoolwise.com. Her blog is excellent for people considering homeschooling. I’ll just reference a few articles.
- This article shows how to start homeschooling on a shoestring budget
- This article shows which homeschool curricula are aligning to Common Core (ie. which to avoid)
- This article helps you to find your homeschooling style
Freedom Project Education - This is a program that’s been around for a few years and it’s really developed into a nice program. I know a couple people who have used this program and they’ve really liked it. It was founded by the John Birch Society so you know it’s got a solid classical education based in principles of the Constitution. The cost is $1600 a year at this time and you have access to the teachers who teach the classes. Here’s a page with general information about the program. If I remember right, they have 3 trimesters a year and you take 3 classes in each trimester (ex. math lasts 12 weeks). Once you high upper grades there are a number of electives as well. It’s a good solid program and sort of the equivalent of a private school experience from the comfort of your home.
The Ron Paul Curriculum - This one is brand new. It will be fully done in 2015, but starting this fall they anticipate K-10 should be done. For K-5, this curriculum is FREE. There are no textbooks, and you just print the occasional worksheet to accompany the lesson. There is no “official support” for the K-5 levels because it’s free and they can’t afford that, but there will be a paid parent forum for $250 per year. Concerning this lack of K-5 support the site says: “If I were the federal government, I would promise you more. But then I probably wouldn’t deliver.” Love that. Children who apply themselves in this curriculum will learn to run a blog, do video editing and tutorials to teach what they’re learning, enter college as Juniors, and have a business that will help pay for it. Check out the details on the website, and check out Tom Woods’ endorsement here (he’s one of the teachers).
Robinson Curriculum - Interestingly, on the Ron Paul Curriculum website, they have this text which will serve as my description of this curriculum. It’s a bargain for families, though I do see Saxon ordering information on their website so I’m not sure if the $200 one time fee for the content really includes everything needed to learn all subjects. If someone knows you can comment below.
“Another super bargain is the Robinson Curriculum. It was created by Dr. Arthur Robinson, the libertarian chemist. He homeschooled six children. Two of them earned Ph.Ds in veterinary medicine. Another earned a Ph.D in nuclear engineering. Another earned a Ph.D in chemistry. One is finishing a Ph.D in nuclear engineering. The sixth is still in college. This curriculum is based on primary source readings. It is self-taught. It costs $200, once per family. Order it here.
Why should I promote a rival product? Because this site is not complete. I want every visitor to adopt homeschooling. If you need a curriculum now, Robinson’s is a good one.”
Thomas Jefferson Education - TJED was founded by Oliver and Rachel DeMille and is very popular with homeschoolers, at least in Utah. I can’t explain much about the program myself, but all I ever hear about it is positive. I know the core idea is that children are geared toward a love of learning by studying things they have an interest in…sort of like that family mentioned above who had the tremendous success with their children learning to love learning.
There are certainly a number of other fine programs, but these are a few off the top of my head you can take a look at. If you homeschool and have other favorites, post them in the comments with a brief description of your experience with it and the pros and cons. There are also numerous conferences and support groups that can help you get started.
A Couple Loose Analogies
Picture totalitarianism on one end of a scale and anarchy on the other. Both have issues but for different reasons. Totalitarianism is like Capital “D.I.” Direct Instruction where they attempt Prussian style education of forcing knowledge into heads. Here’s your task, repeat it. Constructivism is akin to anarchy. Anarchy always always leads to a Democracy (moral relativism as the group makes decisions) and always ends with an oligarchy of power at the top (ie. totalitarianism) where a few excel and the rest are drones. If these are the extremes, then what’s in the middle? Traditional education. I guess you could say it’s like a republic between these two extremes.
Lets try another. How should we answer a child if they asked, “how can I know God is really there?” Under a Capital DI (Direct Instruction) model we might see people saying “memorize this prayer and say it 10 times and know that God is there because it’s so.” Under constructivism you might have a teacher say, “Well why don’t you get together with a few friends and come up with a strategy to pray?” Under traditional education we might say, “prayer is communication with God. He wants to communicate with you. Let me teach you about prayer and then you try it out. I would like to show you what others have experienced with prayer in the scriptures so you have some concrete examples. Look at their experiences. You can experience this too if you learn the principles of prayer.”
Wrapping the End to the Beginning
Remember in part 1 of this article where I talked about Daniel Pink’s work on motivation? Motivation is driven by 3 things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Under capital D.I., you do move toward mastery, but even though you have individualistic learning, your autonomy is hampered by the rigid straight jacket of the curriculum. There is no exploring outside the path set for you. You are told what to do, and you do it, and you’re tested on it, and you stick to the programmed schedule. The education system hinders true education. John Taylor Gatto said schools are good at schooling but not very good at educating and extreme D.I. fits that like a glove. Schooling is all about obedience, while educating is about learning. You can have purpose as you realize you are learning math with a future goal in mind, but it’s not the kind of purpose born of deep intrinsic desires when you have autonomy to pursue your dreams and educational desires.
Under constructivism, you don’t have mastery because it’s so dumbed down you can’t even build a foundation. You don’t even have as much autonomy as D.I. because now you have an emphasis on work that is socially oriented, or assignments so far below your capabilities that you become bored out of your mind. You may have some purpose if you have a goal, but without mastery your purpose will fade and the light of your dreams will go out (as has happened for tens of thousands of graduates just in Alpine School District who graduated with A’s and didn’t know their times tables or long division). These poor students went to college with shattered dreams only taking them to remedial math.
Under traditional direct instruction education, also known as classical education, you should have all 3 elements with intrinsic motivation and rewards and not extrinsic ones that can sap your motivation by making you do it for the reward. It’s not animal conditioning, and it’s not socialistic learning. What does this look like? Homeschooling can do this. Many classrooms in schools with good teachers who are well educated in their subject matter might also qualify. There are tons of good teachers, but they are shackled by red tape nonsense and dumbed down by professional development that indoctrinates them in constructivism instead of content knowledge they can impart to students. Schools of education are by far, doing the most damage in this area telling students that “all the studies show this is the best way to teach math” and pushing constructivism on those students. The truth is there are no studies that support constructivism. Unfortunately the structure of schools interrupting learning every 50 minutes or so to send students on to the next subject is also a barrier to learning, but great for schooling them in obedience and being on the clock.
For years I’ve advocated against Investigations math (constructivist type program) and in favor of Singapore math and Saxon math. Singapore math (only the Primary Math series from www.singaporemath.com) is in my opinion, perhaps the very best program available. It lays a great foundation for children in elementary levels and there is solid material in the upper grades once you’re done with Primary Math. Singapore is direct instruction (lower case “d.i.”, ie. traditional math) where children truly think through things and arrive at answers. Saxon math is heavily scripted. It definitely falls toward the capital D.I. side from where Singapore is, though it has “softened” a bit over the years. I’ve had children in all 3 of these programs. Investigations is a nightmare for everyone involved. Saxon and Singapore are great programs and I’ve seen some impressive assignments in Saxon math that made me really glad my children were in it instead of other alternatives (though I would still prefer Singapore Primary Math).
Both DI and constructivism have some techniques which can help some students, but when we just stick to the extremes (like Investigations math), we are going to dumb down our children and actually reduce their drive to excel. We’re reprogramming children from being intrinsically motivated to extrinsically which leads to a loss of “flow” or “focused motivation” by taking away autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Charlotte Iserbyt criticizes computer software education programs for this very reason that the reward mechanism in the program meant to give a student a success cue, actually damages the intrinsic motivation as well. Digital learning is excellent in some areas, but can be harmful when it steps into rewards because then children come to expect rewards. Video games are designed to be addictive because they introduce rewards to players in such a way that they want to continue for the next reward. Bill Gates has declared that he wants learning to be game-based because winning can be a motivator. This is exactly what Daniel Pink said will turn into a demotivator. What happens when those children graduate and find life isn’t a game and the best things in life come from intrinsic motivations?
Unfortunately in Utah, our state office of education is pushing the failed constructivist approach to education. Schools of education like the McKay School of Education at BYU push this nonsense. The Math Education Department at BYU proved constructivism is an utter failure when they took honors freshmen calculus students and in the name of giving them a “deeper understanding of math,” had them score at the bottom of all 17 regular calculus sections that semester. Why does this persist? John Goodlad’s philosophies are set in the hearts and minds of educators and change is hard.
Is this tied to Common Core? Absolutely! The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) had the opportunity to implement Common Core in different ways. They chose to have Utah implement it in the “integrated” fashion for upper math along with Vermont, instead of discrete years of math like every other state. Dr. David Wright at BYU’s Math Department warned them this was a bad idea because there were no textbooks available written with this integration, but they told him they had it under control. They hired 5 constructivist educators from around Utah and wrote their own horrible curriculum for districts to use with Common Core. They are constructivist dreams. No content, just problem sets. They can’t even be called textbooks. They told us we needed Common Core so that we would have portability of students across state lines, when in reality, we have no ties to other states schedules of learning in upper grades because of this integrated approach. The USOE has also chosen to push the constructivist method in their professional development to districts. Utah could have so much better, but for our state office of education.
Where should we go from here? Full local control of education. Close the USOE, decentralize education, and let parents in the local schools determine their own high standards and what goals they want for their children. I believe the philosophy should be an Agency-Based Education which maximizes freedom to learn, is individualized (and if done right, intrinsic) for each student, and puts parents back in the driver’s seat. Parents who are responsible for their children’s education instead of relying on the state to set what their children need to know, will pay closer attention to detail and figure out what really works and what doesn’t. We don’t need state educrats determining the best philosophy for hundreds of thousands of unique children and pushing it down on them without parental input and guidance. Especially when those philosophies are proven to demotivate and damage our children’s brains.
The Leipzig Connection (On Amazon – excellent book on the history of education)
Tracy Hayes, an education researcher in Massachusetts wrote a helpful article further explaining the difference between Direct Instruction and traditional education.
In the Schools Today
2004 was my pivotal year. My oldest was in 3rd grade and I discovered that Alpine School District was no longer teaching the times tables or long division to children and hadn’t for at least 3 straight years. What in the world was happening?
Alpine and several other districts had partnered with BYU’s McKay School of Education under the leadership of John Goodlad in 1983, forming a Public School Partnership, and they were pushing an educational philosophy called constructivism. The basis of this theory is that knowledge is socially constructed, or in other words, a democratic approach to knowledge and morals. This moral relativism is at the heart of constructivism. Another notion is that when knowledge is constructed, it is retained better. That can be true, but it also means a tremendous loss of foundational knowledge that could have been obtained by someone with an efficient algorithm. Constructivism is heavy on group work, deemphasizing the individual and emphasizing the collective efforts of students who come up with “strategies” to approach problems. It is also called inquiry-based learning for the approach that students should inquire to learn. The process is also deemed more important than the result so students might get no right answers on an exam but still score high on the test for showing a lot of work.
Constructivists have a philosophical difference in opposition to Direct Instruction methods of teaching which comes out of the stimulus/response system of behavioral psychologists like B.F. Skinner. At the extreme, the Direct Instruction method of teaching can tend to not produce long term retention because it’s geared more toward telling a student exactly what must be learned, and then regurgitating it.
Several years ago when I was pondering the lunacy promoted by Goodlad and embraced by seemingly intelligent adults in Alpine School District’s leadership, I came across Project Follow-Through. This was the largest education study ever performed. A billion dollars spent tracking about 170,000 students over decades of time to determine which educational model was most effective in teaching children. The results were stunningly clear. Constructivist math oriented programs like Investigations, Connected, and Interactive math used by Alpine School District were utter failures. Anyone with a shred of common sense knew that intuitively, but it was nice to see it confirmed in a government funded study. Direct Instruction crushed the competition. Naturally, sharing this with the ASD school board and administration had no effect to course correct their direction and do what was best for the children in the district because they were steeped in John Goodlad’s philosophy and regularly taught with him at his annual NNER conferences. Our superintendent even served on Goodlad’s NNER executive committee.
What I didn’t realize when I jumped into the math fight was that although these results were a stunning indictment of constructivism, they were also missing something important about Direct Instruction.
The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America
Charlotte Iserbyt was a senior policy adviser to President Reagan on education matters. She went to work at the Department of Education (DOE) and after discovering what they were up to, stayed after hours to copy and document what these people were doing to American children. Her work was later published as The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. I strongly urge everyone reading this to go to her website and download and save a free copy of this PDF book to your hard drive (after you finish reading this article ).
Siegfried Englemann created the DISTAR (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) program which followed a heavily scripted sequence where the teacher would read something to the children and get constant feedback to ensure they were on track and learning what they were supposed to. As seen in Project Follow Through, this method was vastly superior to constructivist philosophies, but it had its own drawbacks as well. Little case “direct instruction” was simply traditional educating and it was not part of the Project Follow Through study. Here’s a quote from DDDoA.
[Ed. Note: Although the evaluation of [Project] Follow Through cited some academic and self-esteem
gains at some Direct Instruction model sites, it would have been virtually impossible for these
gains not to have been made considering the models with which they were compared—the
non-academic focus of the “touchy-feely” open classroom. Had the Direct Instruction model
been in competition with a traditional phonics program which was not based on animal behavioral
psychology (“scientific, research-based”), it is most unlikely it would have been able to
point to any gains at all. Unsuspecting parents in the 1990s seeking more structured academic
education for their children than can be found in schools experimenting with constructivistic
developmental programs (whole language, etc.) are turning to DI, not realizing they are embracing
a method based on mastery learning and animal psychology.]
Charlotte’s lengthy book exposed all these educational fads and rackets. One paper she wrote concerned Reagan and the DOE contained this clip about John Goodlad. (emphasis mine)
One night, while looking for a typewriter ribbon, I noticed in the
corner of a storage room a box entitled “The Goodlad Study“. I just
about had a heart attack since I had been following this world famous
international change agent’s subversive activities for many
years, especially when I served as a local school board member
prior to going into the Department of Education. Much of the values
destroying curricula and school organizational restructuring
could be laid at his feet. This particular box held a gold mine of
information regarding the efforts of the tax-exempt foundations
and the federal government to implement the United Nations
agenda, to restructure American schools for global government. I
couldn’t believe what had landed in my lap! Four books, all published
by McGraw Hill, were commissioned for this Study. They were:
John Goodlad’s “A Place Called School”; Don Davies’ “Communities
and their Schools” which laid out the socialist/communitarian
agenda to be implemented in America through the schools, pointing
to communist countries as models; Jerome Hausman’s “Arts
and the Schools” which dealt with how to use the arts to change
students’ perceptions and values; and the worst one of all, James
Becker’s “Schooling for a Global Age” which contained the
Foreward by John Goodlad from which parents love to quote:
“Parents and the general public must be reached also.
Otherwise, children and youth enrolled in globally oriented
programs may find themselves in conflict with values
assumed in the home. And then the educational institution
frequently comes under scrutiny and must pull back.“
As an aside: when I returned home I called McGraw Hill to order the
books and was told they were not yet published but that they would
put me No. 1 on their list which they did. Later, when I checked
back with them, they said: “Don’t worry, Mrs. Iserbyt, we’ll get them
to you as soon as they are received; you are No. 1, even ahead of
each of the 50 Chief State School Officers.” That sure told me something
about how important these books were and exactly who would be
carrying out the radical agendas promoted in each one of them.
Sacrilege! Direct Instruction is bad??? By the end of this 3 part article I hope to explain what I mean by this before my homeschool and charter school friends storm the castle, though they do have something to ponder.
Background: What Motivates Us
I recently listened to a book on tape called “Drive,” by Daniel Pink. The book is about the science behind motivation. It’s a fascinating subject explaining the appropriateness of reward systems and what increases or decreases motivation. He says that what we really seek is autonomy, mastery, and purpose. When we are given high amounts of autonomy, the opportunity to perform challenging work at our level of competency so we experience growth, and have meaningful purpose behind what we are doing, we experience something called flow, a term coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29) meaning focused motivation. When we are denied these 3 elements in various degrees, we do not gain the state of focus and concentration to maximize our performance. You need to understand this to understand one of the educational philosophies I’m going to discuss.
Everyone is motivated either intrinsically or extrinsically. We are also rewarded either intrinsically or extrinsically. You either get joy out of what you’re doing, or something external to you is your reward for doing it. What the studies show is that when extrinsic motivators are used incorrectly, it can destroy intrinsic motivation and damage that mechanism altogether. There are times when both can be used effectively, but when intrinsic motivation is key, such as in the area of education, then introducing extrinsic motivators can cause serious harm to the true long-term goals we have of children becoming life-time learners.
Here’s how it works. If someone is doing algorithmic work that could perhaps be automated and doesn’t require creative thinking, those actions can be motivated by a reward or incentive system where the person knows they will be rewarded for completing the task. For example, moving boxes from one side of a warehouse to the other or raking the leaves. These don’t require creative processes (under most circumstances) and so you can incentivize them.
However, as soon as you step into anything requiring thinking and creativity, to provide an extrinsic motivator actually decreases motivation and outcomes because what the individual could have done for intrinsic purposes has been made to appear to be work instead of play. Instead of striving for mastery for the challenge itself, the bribe/incentive/reward turns it into work. Once on that path, rewards motivate people to seek rewards. In studies mentioned in Daniel’s book, creative people are less creative when they know there is a reward in it for them as if doing the thing itself isn’t enough. For example, asking a child to read a book because it’s exciting and fun would turn into work for them if you offered them $10 to read it because they would begin to perceive that if you have to pay them to do it, you might be thinking they really won’t like it and must motivate them with money.
If you’d like to watch Daniel Pink’s TED talk on motivation, it’s highly worth watching: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
A Little Education History
Now we need to lay a little education history framework before we get to the meat of what’s going on.
In the early 1800’s, the Prussian army was frustrated that its soldiers weren’t performing on the battlefields with precise order. They wanted to make sure that future soldiers didn’t have this problem so they implemented compulsory education on their children and began psychological approaches to education to create the desired result of obedient children that would do exactly as they wanted.
Hallmarks of this Prussian education system included compulsory attendance, national training for teachers, national testing for students, national curriculum for each grade, and mandatory kindergarten. The philosophy it was based in was that humans were scientific objects. There is only a body, brain, and nervous system. There is no God, and no spirit, so everything in this scientific object was subject to a stimulus/response system.
In the mid 1800’s, Horace Mann was trained at Leipzig university in this methodology and returned to America to implement it here. Up until this time, compulsory education was not used in America. When it was implemented, parents rose up to stop it and the militia was called out to force children to public schools until the practice became accepted. John Taylor Gatto talks about this in his acceptance speech when he was awarded the NY City Teacher of the Year award for the 3rd time. He also points out that prior to compulsory education, the literacy rate in Massachusetts was 98% and after compulsory education was implemented it dropped and has never exceeded 91% since then.
G. Stanley Hall was another trained in this philosophy at Leipzig and he was John Dewey’s mentor. In 1934, John Dewey became one of the original signatories of the humanist manifesto. The manifesto was a socialistic, atheistic, religious document pronouncing that there was no God or spirit and that man was to fare according to his capabilities. Throughout his life, Dewey sought to use the school system to implement collectivist philosophies on children in an attempt to have them lose individuality and promote socialism.
Dewey wrote, “children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.” (Human Events, 10/18/96)
He also wrote, “you can’t make socialists out of individualists.” (Gordon, What’s Happened To Our Schools? P. 16)
Another well known individual trained at Leipzig was Ivan Pavlov, famous for his bell ringing generating salivation in dogs. Introduce a stimulus and reward a proper response and these psychologists trained children the same way. To them, there was no such thing as children with divine potential and individual God-given talents and abilities, they were lumps of clay ready to be formed to whatever the teachers desired them to become, given the proper stimulus of course. Correction, Horace Mann referred to children as “wax,” not clay.
What did these psychologists want teachers to do to children? Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard professor of education and psychiatry said this in this address to the Childhood International Education seminar in 1973.
“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.”
Benjamin Bloom, another psychologist and educator, most famous for his work on his hierarchy of learning, said we needed to move children toward higher order thinking and defined it like this.
“…a student attains ‘higher order thinking’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong. A large part of what we call good teaching is a teacher´s ability to obtain affective objectives by challenging the student’s fixed beliefs. …a large part of what we call teaching is that the teacher should be able to use education to reorganize a child’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.”
So we can immediately see that those who strongly influence the education system are in many cases corrupt godless individuals who desire nothing more than to take children out of the home at young ages and reshape their belief system.
Last year the Texas Republican Party amended their platform to include this new item, demonstrating that they understood this issue very clearly.
“Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
Oh, but all is well in Utah, right?
John Goodlad is the modern era disciple of John Dewey. He’s an atheist, socialist, humanist, anti-family, pro-social justice educator that is one of the premier voices listened to in numerous education departments across the country including BYU’s McKay School of Education. Go figure. Many quotes could be shared from Goodlad but I’ll just share a couple.
“Most youth still hold the same values of their parents…if we do not alter this pattern, if we don’t resocialize, our system will decay.” – John Goodlad, Schooling for the Future, Issue #9, 1971
“Public education has served as a check on the power of parents, and this is another powerful reason for maintaining it.”
- John Goodlad, Developing Democratic Character in the Young, pg. 165
With people like this influencing the system, is it any wonder that public education is in decay? The goal these people are working toward is socialization, and a disruption and overturning of family values.