Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Common Core & the SAT

The most surprising news about the changes in the Scholastic Aptitude Test is that some leading media outlets failed to link the reforms to the one man working hard to prop up revisions he’s already made to American education.

Neither The New York Times nor Time magazine, in their main stories announcing the reforms to the SAT, mentioned that the changes were coming from Common Core’s leading advocate, David Coleman, who runs the College Board, which owns, produces, writes and publishes the SAT test, taken by nearly 2 million high school students annually.

In other words, the question that remains unanswered is the combined commercial interests of Common Core and the College Board; if they're both linked -- and they give every appearance they will be soon -- what sort of money is at stake?

Common Core, nothing more than an all-out assault to dumb down American education, is Coleman’s baby.  He’s successfully pushed it – or, as he likes to say, it was “voluntarily accepted” – by 45 states, some of which are now pushing back against this latest reform effort.

Coleman is a former McKinsey & Company consultant.  His educational background is impressive, including a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yale University, and he was a Rhodes Scholar, earning another bachelor’s degree from Oxford, in English Literature, and a master’s in ancient philosophy from Cambridge.[i]

Coleman never spent a day teaching kids.  He may have made appearances here and there in a classroom but he’s never been held accountable, professionally, to make sure (the proverbial) Johnny can read, do math or understand science.

In other words, when it comes to day-to-day instruction and how kids go about learning in a classroom setting, he’s clueless.

For that matter, from what I can gather on the College Board’s website and others discussing his background, he doesn’t appear to be a father.

I’m not going to go off on a tangent that one needs to be a parent to fully understand public school education or what it’s like to teach kids; but as a dad closely involved in his kids’ education, I’m here to say it helps – big time!

Yet Coleman’s gained the ear of the high and mighty interested in education, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, President Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the National Governor’s Association as he’s peddled Common Core.

The whole basis of Common Core, from key critics at places like Harvard and Stanford universities, is that it slows math education, putting American kids further behind their peers overseas, and it spends far too much time on “informational texts” rather than literature and, as a result, logical thinking skills are diminished. 

Coleman is all about evidence-based education.  In other words, he wants American kids to consider, when it comes to literature, whether or not an author proved their point.  What evidence did they provide, in other words.

Ask yourself, did Harper Lee, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, and the many other leading authors in American literature, ever prove a point? 

Of course they didn’t.  They weren’t supposed to!

Their job was to tell a story rich in detail that captivated readers’ imaginations, making them stop and think about their own lives as well as the lives of the characters. 

Since Coleman is such an advocate for evidence-based education, we should wonder why he never proposed so much as a modest test, in some community somewhere, where Common Core could be assessed and compared to another community not using this latest reform effort. 

Probably that’s due to his ego or he feared the worse – his baby would fail.

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