City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Sol Stern
Core Confusion « Back to Story

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Heard some of the promotion of cc from the "aussies" who are being paid big big bucks to fix NY teachers. More babbling about the "collective." When we asked why a teacher would be rated down if STUDENTS don't do things that most of us don't do in graduate seminars, the babble was something like "that's the old way of doing things."

Well the old way of doing things brought kids out of elementary school reading at a high school level, put a man on the moon, found cures for polio, tb and many cancers, put a rover on Mars, invented the internet, etc. etc. If you don't develop the INDIVIDUAL, and student don't have time to develop their own thoughts IN DEPTH instead of wasting time listening to the mindless babble of the collective, you will have no excellence.
Hardly content rich, since its standards uber alles and content is only tertiary to standards and "skills." HOw about NOT sending kids into high school when they can barely read and write? How about admitting that not all kids are academically interested or talented and providing vocational programs for them beginning in junior high? Ultimately common core means less content.
Just more liberal tripe trying to destroy the individualism that has made America great. To bring the U.S. down it is necessary to remove a persons ability to rely upon themselves. People must be forced to rely upon an external support I.E., government.
With respect to the notion of solving "real world problems," what does that actually mean to a 4th grader; or someone in the 7th or 11th grades. In today's more complex world, how many high school graduates have the right blend of skills to solve real world problems?

And the idea of "working in teams" is an obvious give-away as to the true intention of this process. This will obviously become a crutch for those who study less and enable them to piggy-back on others who do invest the time to learn the material (on their own).

Along with that, evaluating essays can be highly subjective.
The "traditional math", like Singapore Math, requires mastery of basic facts and of standard algorithms, as well as correct answers on problems. That creates the "problem" that all kids do not perform equally well (nor do different racial/ethnic groups). The fuzzy, spiral curricula don't require mastery of anything and don't require correct answers; one can get As by getting partial credit for "explaining their answers" (as opposed to "showing their work"), even if they do not get ANY answers correct. Of course, there's lots of happy talk about "critical thinking", "higher order thinking" and "conceptual understanding". Ergo, problem solved! In my world, four HS grads from schools of good reputation, who were unable to calculate 6% sales tax, with a calculator (d%*n those power outages), showed no conceptual understanding (I had to explain that 6% means $.06 on every dollar and that $.06=6 cents) and no practical knowledge of 6th-grade arithmetic.
You're absolutely correct. The Common Core math standards do not dictate any kind of pedagogy. William McCallum, lead writer of the CC math standards has said as much. But the interpretation of the math standards is along the "progressive" lines that Mr. Stern talks about. Although it says nothing about collaborative, student-centered or inquiry-based approaches, that is how school districts and Prof Development vendors are interpreting it.

When it is pointed out that CC is silent on pedagogy the response is: The standards require much deeper understanding of math, so the traditional approach used in the past will no longer work for these standards. Funny, but people who make it in STEM careers seem to have learned math via the methods said to have "failed thousands of students" by these purveyors of educational wisdom.

I strongly agree with S.E. Honig's statement. If you go in any other country that is strong academically, except for the kindergarten teachers (who might also have a college degree in some specific major like English) all the other teachers have college degrees in the field they teach. Math teachers are math majors, physics teachers are physics majors and so on. Not Math Ed majors. There is no such thing. Math ed (or methods of teaching mathematics) are brought down into 2-3 courses that a math major who would like to get a teaching license have to take. Plus a course in child psychology. Moreover, a math teacher is able to teach the math from 5th to 8th grade. The kids have the same teacher and don't keep swapping teachers every year for the same subject (which is a waste of time considering the time a teacher needs to learn about all the problems/learning style those 20+ new kids have as well as for the kids to adjust to the new teacher's teaching style and requirements)
Public "schools" have less to do with education than with fish groupings of fry being trained to swim in ever leftward circles, funded by others who are forced to support a bunch of crappie.

Exclusive liberal private schools and universities at least have the merit of taking poseur parents' tuition monies and redistributing them among academically and psychologically challenged faculties and their duped or delusional support staffs.
It seems the author is confused about the respective roles of the city and the state. The DoE may have recommended textbooks, but Walcott's understanding of Common Core or lack thereof is incidental; the exams are state-written, at least until PARCC takes over. And NYSED's sample questions are a piece of work, as we review in our blog:
The most urgent need is to close all schools of "Education" in the country. Then forbid any graduates of these institutions from teaching children in any school. Then close the Department of Education.
Sounds like the bureaucracy is doing what these people do - insulating themselves against change.

That being said, is it really so hard to teach reading, writing and 'rithmatic? I don't get it - I really don't get it. There is just so much wrong about the schools today and so little right.
Oh they do. I must say as a long term admirer of your work I was saddened by the NRO piece you wrote. As an attorney who has spent the last 4 years looking into the fact that the legally required classroom implementation and plans for the Common Core look nothing like the sales job for it.

For one thing the accreditation agencies will not let the implementation be about content. The standards I have seen and have copies of are not interested in knowledge. Social, emotional, and physical needs of the child are what the classroom is about. In addition, the CCSSI expressly incorporated Universal Design for Learning into its implementation. Applicable to all students. That also severely constrains content as traditionally understood.

As Linda Darling-Hammond herself has said, the Common Core is to be John Dewey's dream finally realized. The PR campaign is quite consistent with everything I have seen. And I have tracked CCSSI curriculum to servers all over the world. Obtained long before anyone knew there was a Common Core.

To really understand the NYC implementation you need to appreciate standards are just a synonym for outcomes and the urban districts, the Council of Great City Schools, is where this all incubated for 8 years ready to be nationalized again. Financing the creation of the alternative performance assessments up front this time through the 2009 Stimulus Act. NYC really kicked off where CCSSI and RTT would go when Michael Barber sent Cambridge Education to NYC in 2007 to tell the teachers they could no longer teach the content. It's what Cambridge did in the UK and it is what they have done here. I know they came to my school district last year with comparable edicts.

That's enough for now but if you or anyone else wants a hyperdocumented layout of where this is all going, I write at

It may not be a pleasant story but it is an accurate one.
School lunches: They need to check out what the French do. High
tech: They need to check out what the FInnish do. All these named programs are worthless because they skim/skip the basics in favor of concepts. Schools are no place for propaganda. Teach children
to read, write, add, subtract, etc. ... Basics. Education is an individual matter best designed on the local level. The Federal government needs to stay out of education. Look at the disaster
busing produced in Boston in the 1960s. This nation as a whole is worse off than it was 50-100 years ago; people are dumber and fatter; there is no leadership. All this will change
My 14 year old son at PS 333 8th grade said test today was insane.
Please also note:
2)From Canada Free Press: If Common Core has its way the day will come when the parents of children indoctrinated by this hideous UN program will face a heartless, impossible to change enemy: their own children
The article should be edited to include a link to the text of the new "common core" standards.