- The article below on Common Core is written by Paula Pettit Skender submitted in my doctorate at Liberty University, December 2013.
- I’m a concerned citizen for our nation. Are you?
- “America, our last, best hope.” Abraham Lincoln
Common Core and Why We Don’t Need it.
Research on Common Core Curriculum after this introduction as to why I might be interested in education:
This picture was taken in 1982—Jim Pettit and wife, Aleta Sanders Pettit. They married in 1946. Always an avid believer in education, Dad also knew that real life experiences outside the classroom were as important if not more important with family and friends. And Mother, who died in 2003, always knew that much more important than education, there was nothing better to develop ones knowledge and wisdom than to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5 (New International Version). We, your daughters, will see you both again……
Common Core and Reading Disabilities
Reading continues to be the critical educational skill needed for college entry and career advancement. However, many adults still struggle with an identified reading disability (RD) that elementary education failed to remedy. Today, common core state standards (CCSS) proposes to meet the nation’s needs for highly skilled students, and introduces a push for higher order thinking skills and writing demands that begin as early as kindergarten. CCSS’ cursory educational presentations and quick dismissal of the known foundational reading instruction that emphasizes phoneme mastery and spelling practice, known to enhance the reading needs of students with RD, disagrees with evidence-based research. Non-responders, or delayed readers, and later, as students identified as learning disabled (LD) in reading, or RD, require systematic, evidence-based, intensive instruction that focuses on foundational reading skills. Ongoing research continues to determine why certain readers do not respond to routine reading methods. However, the research remains clear that token review of foundational skills as introduced in CCSS will not meet the needs of the student with RD.
Core knowledge of a subject has a long history of use by educators that are proficient in a field of study. A common core of knowledge in a field is intended to empower the student in mastery of basic skills for more independent study in that area. Best practice in educating the student in a core subject is that the presentation rests with the needs of the student. Teach the student from his current skill level.
Those that seek to educate a population in academic rigor often promote the continuation of a core of knowledge. This philosophy has existed since Confucius (Gutek, 2011, pp. 21-22).. An ethical ladder in Confucius philosophy insured that the student must “know her or his place, duties, and responsibilities and the proper way of performing these duties” (Gutek, 2011, p. 19).
Aspirations for a common core of skills that require mastery are reasonable in support of family life, employment, and social order. These goals promote independence to support oneself and needed skills to contribute to the community. Work schedules appear as early as the creation when “God took the man and put him in the Garden to work it and take care of it” Genesis 2:15 (New International Version). And several thousand years later, work emerges again as an assignment. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” II Thessalonians 3:10 (New International Version).
To enhance this ancient focus on work comes the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) claim for streamlined mastery of skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Advocates of CCSS proclaim that the four legs of the CCSS guarantee higher student skill mastery, but, yet, most vital, career and college-readiness. However, as CCSS has been adopted by political entitlement machinations of Race to the Top, rather than sound evidence-based research, it is also reasonable to consider that along with the usurpation of educational standards, the CCSS curriculum, which will control all items of national test content, could expound propaganda (Race to the Top Fund, n.d.; Koehle, 2013, January 26)).
Political engineers could funnel their own form of knowledge that may not agree with the parental mind-set. Koehle (2013, January 26) cites that the political propaganda-masterminding goal insures that youths become a workforce for the elites. This would be too easy to initiate in a top down curriculum where the parent is left out (Koehle, 2013, January 26). Furthermore, the name, CCSS, is misleading. No state governor or local state bureaucrat wrote the standards. CCSS is not a local school board or parent approved curriculum. The state governors agreed to adopt CCSS for the promised educational money from the Department of Education’s Race to the Top. Most of the 45 states agreed to accept CCSS for the educational funds, but most of the states failed to get the money. However, those 45 states are left with CCSS adoption.
David Coleman and Jason Zimba are the identified writers of CCSS (Pattison, 2011, May 31). However, Koehle (2013, January 26) identifies that Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS) as it was formerly called, before it was dressed with the word “state,” was originally curriculum formulated by the United Nations (U.N).
The reach of the federal government with tentacles from the U.N. now grasps local schoolrooms. Distant political policy-makers, rather than locally elected school boards, parents or educators set the core knowledge of what subject-matter instruction will be taught since the test will be items approved by the CCSS agenda. When government is in charge of what is taught in the nation’s schools, it plays into the hands of those who seek power over truth. “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future” (Hitler Youth, n.d.).
Furthermore, to use political power in thinking that all educators will agree upon what is core knowledge is a question that the former assistant U.S. secretary of education asked when CCSS writers cut significant literature from the CCSS standards and added informational text as a replacement. She disagreed with the cuts and questioned “why foist it on an entire nation” (Ravitch, 2012, May 19, Alexander, R. 2013, March 18)?
There are many advocates of CCSS. Two nationally certified teachers claim CCSS proficiency in their English and history classes. Higher order thinking skill development identifies the progress in these classrooms. But these are their claims by observation. Statistical outcomes are yet to be tested. A key to possible bias in these two teachers’ professional focus is a statement that they made in regard to CCSS, that the “national focus will help elevate the teaching profession, and that excites us.” (Gardner & Powell, 2013, p. 53).
While there are many advocates, the opponents to CCSS hold the evidence-based research on students that have reading disabilities (RD). And one size does not fit all needs. While CCSS proponents trumpet higher order thinking skills, the student with RD will miss the higher order thinking processes espoused by Garner and Powell (2013) due to deficits in foundational reading skills. The student with RD requires extensive treatment in early elementary. Students with RD are required to have many more practice sessions in reading in order to master foundational skills (Brady, 2012, pp. 22-23). The 2010 mandated Common Core State Standards (CCSS) continue with its political adoption and breakneck speed in implementation, and even in initial early grade placement, it lacks focus on foundational reading skills (i.e. phonemic awareness, decoding, and fluency) to best meet the needs of students with RD (Haager & Vaughn, 2013, p. 6). While CCSS reflects current and popular ideas, it possesses no evidence-based research to insure student performance (Moats, 2012, p. 15) Therefore, an educator’s tested trials to determine what works best for the individual student’s needs does not exist in CCSS.
Regardless of the forced adoption of CCSS by politicians rather than using educator trials to determine best practice—is the CCSS’ four legs of presentation in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, [i.e. the English Language Arts (ELA) section of the CCSS] the best support for student skill development in delayed readers. CCSS identifies these four legs (e.g. listening, speaking, reading, writing) as foundational skills that must be presented in an on-going laced presentation that solidifies student skills for career and college readiness. However, these are only assumptions that are not validated by evidence-based research (Moats, 2012, p.15).
Many evidence-based studies support the foundational skills needed by students with RD such as phoneme and vocabulary proficiency, and these studies support the need for CCSS revisions (Brady, 2012; Shany & Biemiller, 2010; Snowling & Hulme, 2011).
The basic premise of CCSS in using listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in a laced structure throughout the core subjects is noteworthy, and not a new idea. But to purchase curriculum and software that holds no evidence-based research to prove its claims is not in the best interest of the student, the teaching practice, or the schools. While all four legs of the CCSS agenda are vital to the students continued academic success, listening and oral language require mastery and firm foundations before reading or writing can be successful.
To best reach the student with RD, there exists one study with extensive accommodations and modifications in listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills combined with longer sessions of instructions that shows proof that using these four legs together produce exceptional results with an effect size of 4.4 and 3.9 for both reading programs used. The curriculum that was used in this study was first, a forerunner to the currently published Lindamood Phoneme sequencing Program for Reading (Lindamood & Lindamood, 1998) with emphasis on speech sequencing of sounds (e.g. phonemes) and second, the researchers’ own prepared curriculum that contained the effect size of 3.9. The alternate curriculum similarly aligned with the Lindamood program. Both curriculums proved significant results Torgesen, Alexander, Wagner, Roshotte, Voeller, and Conway (2001) used this curriculum and proved to have outstanding results in phoneme skill mastery. This was made possible by increasing the time spent in one-on-one instruction for two 50-minute intensive instruction sessions per day. Key to this eight week study was that 40% of the students left the special education program within one year after treatment, and after two years the students continued to be stabilized in their progress. The researchers recommended that public schools consider more time in reading instruction for students’ with RD needs.
This suggestion requires more extensive investigation. The Torgesen, et al. (2001) study and the Lonigan and Shanahan (n.d.) executive summary, both identified that a one-on-one environment of student with instructor significantly contributed to the development of reading skills. However, listening skills and oral language are the prerequisite skills to reading. Listening and oral language require focus, prior to the demands of letter identification, sight word recognition, and comprehension. The significant outcomes of the Torgesen, et al. (2001) study and the findings of the Lonigan and Shanahan (n.d.) executive summary reveal a need for using a one-on-one focus of treatment for instruction. A one-on-one setting for early childhood may actually be a wake-up call for mothers or fathers to return to the home instead of both parents struggling in the workforce. Students with RD have a limited amount of time for the optimal educational environment that they require (Gustafson, Faith, Svensson, Tjus, & Heimann, 2011).
Children have problems in understanding what is read due to limited vocabulary. However, a parent listening to a child’s oral language while looking at picture books presented in a physically and emotionally safe environment, to include the child using his native language to construct meaning from the picture presentations, is known to increase child and parent relationships and child reading skills (Cameron-Faulkner & Noble, 2013, p. 226; Hunt & Robson, 1999, p. 47). Listening is a priority skill that needs development prior to school entry. A one-on-one reading enjoyment and one-on-one quiet time in question and answer activities over an interesting story that the parent reads with high vocabulary that can be explained by the parent in this safe environment is a practice that most busy parents in this technology inundated environment may only hope to plan as an evening quiet time.
Regardless, without an at-home, safe environment, where reading has been enjoyed by a loving interchange, listening skill development may be hindered. The time required to foster listening skills prior to public school entry, lies in an at-home initiative or a preschool small group setting. However, the one-on-one setting was cited with the best results (Lonigan & Shanahan, n.d.) This is needed before the school-age routine of 20 to 30 peers in a classroom, vying for the teacher’s attention. Certain students who arrive from a busy childcare center, only to enter a busy schoolroom, may not have received the one-on-one language development and listening skill practice that many children need.
Enjoyable at-home reading sessions, in a safe and physically comfortable relationship with parents, combined with parental reading to students in books that provide expansive vocabulary experience with explanations improve reading (Cameron-Faulkner & Noble, 2013, p. 226; Hunt & Robson, 1999, p. 47). These evidence-based studies, while not in a home setting, still functioned in a sheltered one-on-one environment, and agree with the one-on-one settings in the executive summary of Lonigan, & Shanahan (n.d.) and the study by Torgesen, et al. (2001). Furthermore, oral language and listening skill development prior to school entry directs a student in a strong interest toward reading. This motivates a student to read and the more one reads, the better reader one becomes.
Phoneme proficiency in early language development requires identification of the nuances in sounds (e.g. phoneme awareness). Individuals with RD deficits consistently show delays in phoneme awareness and vocabulary knowledge into adulthood (Shany & Biemiller, 2010; Snowling & Hulme, 2011; Swanson, 2011). The practice time requirements that students with RD need in order to be competitive in reading disagree with CCSS’ fast pace and cursory attention to foundational reading skill. CCSS gives no scope and sequence of how to best present the demands of its standards. CCSS ignores the needs of the student with RD that requires the foundational skill development of phoneme awareness (e.g. simple sound nuances in the language) and CCSS ignores spelling that allows the student to master those sounds and make the connections of the pronunciation of a letter as it is aligned to the written text (Haager & Vaughn, 2013, p. 6; Sayeski, 2011)). As one researcher indicates, CCSS implementation could be harmful to 40% of low skill readers (Moats, 2012, p. 15).
Reading foundations must be practiced for the student with RD. Identified opportunity for the student to practice daily at-the-skill level reading that the student is on is needed daily by the student. Reading practice increases reading skills by continuous text reading as opposed to word identification recall that assists in word recognition (Ring, Barefoot, Arvit, Brown, & Black, 2012). There is sufficient research available to make improvements to CCSS before its forced implementation since it leaves much to the dictates of interpretation and makes no recommendations in how to get to the high standards that it lists (Brady, 2012, pp. 22-23).
While introductory presentations of oral modeling as addressed by Mills (2009) focuses on developing listening and oral language skills in an elementary or higher reading class, there is no doubt that listening and oral language continue to need modeling and practice in public school. However, prior to public school entry, listening and oral language development will insure that the student is ready to read.
It appears that CCSS seeks to overcome the listening skills and oral language skill deficits by presentation and practice of these vital skill developments in early kindergarten. The process of presentation and practice in CCSS, due to time restraints, quickly jumps to cursory layouts of the foundational skills like phoneme and vocabulary development required in listening to sounds in words, later to phonics skills by seeing the letter that represents the sound match, and then to actual words, that needs more focus by spelling skill development to solidly entrench a sight word vocabulary. Foundational reading skills provide a solid reading baseline for all elementary students, but especially for those students that initially may not respond to instruction, but later, may also be identified as students with RD. CCSS seeks higher order thinking skills by combining listening, speaking, reading, and writing skill development. CCSS claims on the student population has not been tested. CCSS fails to address the time required, not only by students that are RD, but by many regular students. Foundational skills of reading require mastery for best outcomes.
Establishing a basic core of knowledge to teach skills in a subject is not a new concept. However, the concept of usurping 45 states’ educational curriculum looks like a massive take-over. One could claim that the Race to the Top fiasco was deceptively intentional. It initiated a mass acceptance by state governors. It further usurped the authority of local school boards and parents.
Tyranny in education is a drastically new concept over the nation’s children, parents, teachers, and administrators. This is a tight-wire of standards that the parents and the taxpayers for public schools may not fully realize.
Hess and McShane (2013, p.62) indicate that the main problem with the local implementation of the standards is that “the Common Core has huge capability to do harm if it doesn’t work out” (Hess & McShane, 2013, p. 62). In this case, the schools have been given the mandate, but no money for the exorbitant costs of the CCSS curriculum, software, and professional training that it requires.
An Ohio school pulled out of accepting CCSS, since CCSS “was costing” the school significantly more to meet the required mandates of CCSS than the benefit of the promised $100,000 four-year grant offered to the school for implementation of CCSS (Alexander, 2013, March 18). Another school pulled out of the CCSS mandate in that none of the parents had a say in its acceptance (Common Core, Education Without Representation, 2013, Sep 21).
The cost of the CCSS curriculum published by Pearson is exorbitant. Pearson owns over 100 school-approved publishers of textbooks. Pearson also owns the state tests and all teacher certification tests, along with the publication of CCSS. Furthermore, Bill Gates, of Apple computers, owns the software packaged for joint monopoly with Pearson on CCSS public school curriculum costs (Koehle, 2013, January 26; Beck, G. 2013, September 24). However, Dresslar (2013) cites that any allegations against CCSS are only extremists.
To add to the confusion, there is also evidence-based research findings that identify that trained teachers, to include professional special education teachers, require more training in identification of the nuances of terminology and vocabulary in the initial reading demands required in the reading process. Teachers in two separate regions, in early elementary, could not identify certain reading skill requirements (Washburn, Joshi, & Binks-Cantrell, 2011). However, this study is limited due to its restricted locations and relatively small population size.
Evidence based research provides insight into the best methods of instruction to apply in student needs. Evidence-based research does not support CCSS except in an extensively modified study as in Torgesen, et al. (2001) that only used the four legs of CCSS with no standards, since CCSS did not exist at the time. Furthermore, the current format of CCSS may prove significantly costly with no better results than its predecessors. CCSS’ identification as standards filled with rigor will require extensive research to test the claims. The time to slow-down CCSS implementation is now. Let time and opportunity for research prove CCSS right. Or let the evidence prove otherwise.
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