So There’s A Moratorium. Now What?

Those seeking a moratorium on using high stakes tests to judge teachers seem to have gotten what they asked for. What happens now?

Remember that a “moratorium” is nothing more than ‘a suspension of activity.’  It does not imply any pro-active behavior or a re-examination of current policies. It’s merely a time of doing nothing.  Should we celebrate because Bill Gates, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Washington (DC) Superintendent Kaya Henderson, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have gotten what they wanted?  I don’t think so.

This very limited moratorium means that scores on the new Common Core standardized tests won’t be used to evaluate teachers in many places.  That’s what some might call a necessary but hardly sufficient action.

This moratorium doesn’t mean that a truce has been called between the warring sides in the battle over teacher job protection and evaluation. That war is ongoing, sadly.

And this moratorium doesn’t mean that school districts are now going to examine the role or amount of standardized bubble testing.

And there’s a lot of it {{1}}.  Take Lee County, Florida, recently in the news for flirting with the possibility of defying the state on its testing requirements. Believe it or not, that system will be administering a standardized test to some it its students every single day of the school year. Reporter Emily Atteberry of the News-Press wrote, “If the testing calendar is approved, there will be an exam administered every day of Lee’s 180-day school year.  A News-Press analysis of the district’s tentative testing calendar found that there are 175 tests administered over 95 testing windows throughout the year. Some of the testing windows are more than a month long. While there aren’t 175 different tests, many are administered multiple times throughout the year.”

For a close look at the staggering amount of testing there, here are the testing calendars for elementary, middle and high schools there.

On his blog, Secretary Duncan wrote, “Where tests are redundant, or not sufficiently helpful for instruction, they cost precious time that teachers and kids can’t afford. Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress.”

The Secretary also questioned the number of tests schools give.  “And we also need to recognize that in many places, the sheer quantity of testing – and test prep – has become an issue. In some schools and districts, over time tests have simply been layered on top of one another, without a clear sense of strategy or direction.”

I suggest we take the Secretary at his word and request the following from our school superintendents.  For convenience, here’s a simple fill-in-the-blank format.

Students in our district will take _____ standardized, machine-scored tests during the course of the year.  Is this an appropriate number?

Of these tests,  _____ were selected by the district, and  _____ are required by the state.

A student who attends our district from Kindergarten through graduation will take  _____ standardized tests during his or her time in school. Is this number too high, too low or about right?

There are only  _____ days on our 180-day calendar when a standardized test is NOT being administered. {{2}}

Some test results determine a child’s promotion, while others are used to evaluate schools and teachers. Is this the right approach?  How useful is this information?  Should we test only a carefully drawn sample {{3}} of students when we want to evaluate schools, instead of testing every student?

Right now we test all students in only  _____ subjects.  However, if we are going to evaluate all teachers according to their students’ scores, we will need to test in more subjects, including art, science, social studies and music.  Is this advisable?

There is a —- month lag time between the administration of a test and the delivery of the results.  Is this acceptable?

Our school district spends $_____ per year to buy and score standardized tests. (These out-of-pocket costs do not include the labor costs.)  This amounts to less than _____ % of our annual school budget. {{4}}  Is this amount low, high or about right?

We devote  _____ hours per year to testing, out of approximately 900 hours of actual class time during the 180-day school year.  Is this amount excessive, too little, or about right?

In addition, many teachers devote another  ____ hours to what is known as ‘test prep.’ The numbers vary from teacher to teacher and school to school and are difficult to pinpoint, but nevertheless the issue merits public discussion.

Last year we fired  _____ teachers because their students’ scores did not go up sufficiently.

Last year we distributed $$ _____ in cash awards to teachers whose students’ scores went up well beyond the expected level.

Last year we investigated  _____ incidents of alleged cheating on standardized tests,  _____ by students and  _____ by teachers and other administrators.

I hope you will join me in a spirited public discussion {{5}} about testing.

A few superintendents are speaking out about excessive testing. Unfortunately, their powerful messages are strong on emotion but woefully short of factual information. For example, Mark Cross of Peru (Illinois) Elementary District 24 sent this letter to parents.

Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recently published an op-ed in the Miami Herald that is also short on specifics.

His op-ed followed some careful reporting on testing by the Miami Herald.

Rhode Island plans a 1-year review of testing, but the call to action {{6}} is also devoid of data.

Study groups are one thing; action is another. Kudos to the Pittsburgh School Board for voting to reducing the hours devoted to testing in the early grades.  A paragraph from Eleanor Chute’s report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette indicates how out-of-control testing had become:  “The biggest reductions are planned in grades 3, 4 and 5 where the number of periods spent in testing are to decline from 85.5 periods to 41.5 periods. After school board member Sherry Hazuda was told one period equals 45 minutes, she said, “No wonder people are complaining when you see it like that.”

Are you doing the math?  85.5 periods is roughly 60 HOURS of class time devoted to giving standardized tests to 8-, 9- and 10-year olds!   Going forward, only 30 hours!  (Bear in mind that a full school year has perhaps 900 hours of class time, meaning that Pittsburgh’s young children were devoting 7.5% of that time to taking bubble tests.)

FairTest, the anti-standardized testing organization, seems to think the tide has turned in the battle against over-testing. It recently published “Testing Reform Victories: The First Wave,” celebrating what it calls “an explosion of resistance {{7}}.”

FairTest is hardly a neutral observer. In fact, everyone seems to have significant skin in the game, making it difficult to identify an organization {{8}} that could credibly lead an inquiry into the role of standardized bubble tests in public education.

I can think of only one candidate, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. NNSTOY, which was founded in 1980, has an Executive Director, Katherine Bassett, whose goal is to make the organization ‘impactful,’ one Board member told me recently.  NNSTOY’s list of 25 partners includes so many players–including Pearson and the National Council on Teaching Quality, two of the left’s favorite whipping boys–that I doubt if any of them wields much influence.  Boards set an organization’s policies, and most of NNSTOY’s Board members are classroom teachers who have been honored within the profession for their skill and dedication.

Would NNSTOY call on superintendents and school boards to fill in the blanks on the document above and then engage in a public-spirited discussion of the goals and purposes of schooling?

Someone has to….

—-

[[1]]1. Superintendent Nicholas Gledich of District 11 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote to remind me that “There have been several studies of testing and lost instructional time.  One study of two urban school districts performed by the AFT in 2013 found that testing takes 20-50 hours per student per year. Test prep can take from 60 to more than 110 hours per pupil per year.  At a cost of $6.15 per hour, this amounts to a cost of of $700 to $1000 per year per pupil just on testing, the equivalent cost of adding an hour to the school day. (“Testing More, Teaching Less;” Howard Nelson, 2013).[[1]]

[[2]]2. Be prepared to be surprised by the answer here because Lee County is not alone. Christina Veiga of The Miami Herald reported a story headlined ‘In Miami-Dade the Testing Never Stops.” She wrote, “Out of the 180-day academic year, Miami-Dade County schools will administer standardized tests on every day but eight.”  [[2]]

[[3]]3. This is a perfectly plausible approach, as we reported on the PBS NewsHour recently. [[3]]

[[4]]4. This number will probably NOT be high because most schools buy cheap tests. In Lee County, Florida, for example, the $5,258,493 it spends on testing is not even one-half of one percent of the district’s budget.[[4]]

[[5]]5. I raised this general issue with David Hornbeck, the veteran educator who served as Superintendent in Philadelphia and State Superintendent in Maryland and Kentucky. He suggested a deeper conversation, by pursuing the following lines of inquiry:

-How does the testing program contribute to or detract from collaboration among teachers?

-How much planning time (and training to use it effectively) does the system provide teachers for data analysis and instructional improvement based on assessment results?

-When assessment reveals that a school repeatedly is not doing well, what system is in place to help the school improve its performance? How much money is spent on it?

-How much more money would a system need to have an assessment “system” that would result in “test prep” that actually scaffolded learning that is valued and, thus, encouraged?

-How could time be used to make assessment an integral part of the instructional program? How much more time would have to be devoted to assessment to make that a reality? [[5]]

[[6]]6. When Reporter Linda Borg asked readers to vote on whether Rhode Island schools were testing too much, 73% of the 1409 voters said ‘No.’[[6]]

[[7]]7. Here’s one example from the report: “After hearing mounting concerns about too much teaching to the test, Virginia lawmakers passed legislation to reduce the number of state tests from 22 to 17 in grades 3 through 8. ‘Overwhelmingly, we heard concerns that the ‘teaching to the test’ mentality was depriving students of the opportunity to derive substantive value from the material as opposed to memorizing factoids and regurgitating information without having synthesized it,’ said Mike Webert, a Virginia legislator. A state task force is considering further reductions.” [[7]]

[[8]]8. In Tennessee this week Secretary Duncan challenged the PTA to lead a debate about education during the 2016 Presidential campaign, but he did not speak specifically about the role of standardized tests, as reported by Education Week. [[8]]

Criticizing Common Core Coverage

In the business of journalism, criticism is part of the deal. We are taken to task for leaving out important parts of the story or for getting the facts wrong, and sometimes we get criticized for not doing the story that the viewer wanted to see. That’s the preface to the question of this piece: “Was our 2-part report on the Common Core national standards an infomercial,” as one viewer charges? That was the harshest criticism leveled at us (as far as I am aware), but two other viewers wrote to say that we missed important parts of the story. The harshest critique came from Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts-based, right-leaning think tank that opposes the Common Core.

This piece really seems like an infomercial for Common Core that doesn’t provide any opposing view or criticism of either the academic quality of the Common Core, the legal issues (three federal law explicitly prohibit the federal govt from funding, validating, or directing national standards, tests or curricula), or the costs to states/districts. For three years, Pioneer Institute has done nationally recognized research on all these topics.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324659404578503561386927962.html
http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-03-09/opinions/35449136_1_unesco-laws-national-curriculum

This is an interesting segment, John, I’m just not sure this is actually what I would call journalism.

(Mr. Gass to the contrary, the Common Core was not developed by the federal government and is not curriculum. Washington has played and is playing a major role, of course. We reported all of that.)

I responded to Mr. Gass as follows:

I respectfully disagree but take your point. The politics of the Common Core deserves its own segment, and it’s one we are planning. As you are aware, it’s a moving target, with some strong opposition from left and right.
My own personal view, which won’t be in any piece, is that the CC may calcify age-grading–ironically and perhaps tragically at the very time when technology allows true individualization.
The cooler aspects of the CC such as collaboration, speaking persuasively and the like, cannot be tested by machines, meaning the system will have to trust teachers. But it’s designed to be in part a “gotcha” system (as we pointed out), which is beyond paradox. A genuine contradiction.
We trust the intelligence of our audience to recognize, for example, the strong hand of Washington in the CC.
Thanks for writing and for all the good work Pioneer does. It’s solid and interesting and very often invaluable.

The civilized back-and-forth continued, in Mr. Gass’ response:

As you may know, our opposition has turned on the lower academic quality of Common Core, as well as cost and legality.
I’m not sure I’d characterize our opposition to Common Core as “political,” but primarily educational and legal. After all, there are three federal laws that explicitly forbids the federal government from funding, directing, or validating national standards, tests or curricula. Two of these three laws were signed into law by LBJ and President Carter. These are federal laws, not a list of political recommendations to be obeyed or disobeyed based on whim or convenience.
And we’ve done the first, most thorough, and only non-Gates funded evaluations of Common Core’s standards lower academic quality against high standard states, including MA, IN, TX, MN, and CA. Merely giving Common Core proponents unchecked and unanswered air time for their views doesn’t really serve the public interest or a robust public exchange of ideas.

It seems to me that Mr. Gass wanted us to produce a very different piece, one that debated the wisdom of the path that public education is on. (For his view.) Our view is that the debate, while important, is a different level of the story. That’s the upper atmosphere, but our intention was to give the audience a picture of what Common Core teaching can look like at ground level, in classrooms. You cannot get that in the Wall Street Journal or anywhere else in print, and I don’t think you will see it on other television news programs. And we wanted you to hear from teachers and students, not policy makers and their critics.

In Part Two we dug deep into testing issues, exposing how the federal government’s own stipulation may well doom the enterprise to failure, because the ‘new’ skills the Common Core emphasizes–like speaking persuasively and working collaboratively–simply cannot be assessed by machines. And the Feds want data that can be used to evaluate (and perhaps fire) adults, because, deep down, the folks at the top apparently don’t trust teachers.

We obviously did not produce the report that Mr. Gass wants to see, about the politics of the Common Core. At some point, I am sure we will.

Two other critics, one an economist and the other a lawyer, clearly thought we should have explored the new standards in more depth, instead of focusing on the ‘new’ skills like working collaboratively. The lawyer focused on the English Language Arts standards: “If you look at the first grade curriculum, it is ridiculous. Someone thinks they are PhDs.”

I agree with her, for what it’s worth. They are cumbersome and, to this former English teacher, horribly overwritten. Read them yourself and let me know if you can get through them without nodding off.

The economist took us to task, gently, for not exploring the complexity, not to say pomposity, of the new national Mathematics standards. He wrote: “Enjoyed your piece on the Common core on the PBS NewsHour last night and will watch tonight’s show. You might find it interesting to look at the standards themselves.”

(We did look at them, honest.)

He then provided a sample 3-part problem which he said is for 11th graders and was taken from an official document explaining the Common Core (.pdf).{{1}}

“Give me 8 sheep and then we will have an equal number” said one shepherd to another.
“No, you give me 8 sheep, and then I will have twice as many as you” replied another shepherd.

First the student must solve the problem: 1) How many sheep did each shepherd have to start with?
And then: 2) Write an equation or inequality that has (a) no real solutions; (b) infinite numbers of real solutions; and (c) exactly one real solution.
Finally: 3) Solve an equation of the form f(x) = c for a simple function f that has an inverse and write an expression for the inverse. For example, f(x) =2 x3 for x > 0 or f(x) = (x+1)/(x–1) for x ≠ 1.

The economist added wryly, “Being able to solve these problems would, undoubtedly, be nice. Unfortunately, facing this kind of problem encourages a great many college freshman to enquire about how little math they can take and still graduate and many graduates to state that they hated the subject.”

The criticism notwithstanding, I believe that our pieces were balanced and fair. Our reporting about the effort to develop tests broke new ground. But our coverage was not thorough because we did not air the debate about the complexity of the standards or the legal challenges, and we did not give airtime to those on the left and right who oppose the Common Core.

Frankly, that’s asking too much of two reports of perhaps 13 minutes in total air time.

My personal concern–which you should not expect to see or hear from me on the NewsHour–is that these national standards, even if higher and deeper, may be a step in the wrong direction because they may make it harder to individualize learning opportunities. Today’s technologies allow kids to soar–or fly lower and slower where that’s appropriate, but a rigid interpretation of the national standards–”This is where you are supposed to be”–will merely repeat education’s common failing of mindlessly aiming at the middle. That would be a tragedy.

_____

[[1]]I could not find the problem at this link. In a subsequent email he wrote, ‘they seem to have eliminated the sample problems.’[[1]]

The Common Core and the End of the World

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the arrival of the Common Core apparently means the end of the world as we know it. Below are some of recent apocalyptic warnings from people on the left and the right (with other earlier doomsday predictions interspersed).

My own thoughts are in the final paragraphs.

From Senator Rand Paul (R, KY):
“There are few things more dangerous to our liberty and prosperity than allowing federal bureaucrats and politicians to control our children.   Their newest plot is called Common Core – a dangerous new curriculum that will only make public education worse and waste more of our money. … If we want America to once again lead the world in education standards, we need to get rid of top-down federal schemes that put every child into the same box. The first step toward regaining parental control of education is stopping Common Core.”

(“The world will end in 1284” Pope Innocent III, writing in 1213)

From Anthony Cody, a left-leaning blogger and former teacher:
“The tests associated with Common Core are likely to renew the false indictment of our public schools. Proficiency rates are predicted to drop by at least 30%. There will be a significant expansion in the number and frequency of tests, and the technology needed to fully implement to Common Core will divert billions of scarce education dollars.”

(“An epic flood beginning on February 20, 1524 will drown the world’s population and end civilization” Johannes Stoffler, a German scholar)

From Stanley Kurtz in The National Review:
“A thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the legally and constitutionally enshrined principle of state-level control over education.”

(“Yea verily, the world will end in 1697” Cotton Mather, the Puritan preacher. When the earth continued into 1698, he predicted that it would end in 1716.  When the world survived again, Dr. Mather made a final doomsday prediction: it would end in 1736.  Wrong again.)

From Mr. Cody:
“And what about a democratic process? We are apparently about to be handed a set of standards that will dictate what is taught in millions of classrooms across this nation. How will these have been arrived at? Who, besides the Gates Foundation millionaire’s club and the standardized test companies and the publishing companies will have been engaged in this profoundly civic process?”

(“The seven tails of Halley’s Comet will impregnate the earth’s atmosphere, setting it and the entire world ablaze, destroying the planet” French astronomer Camille Flammarion, writing in 1910.)

From the “The Common Core: Education without Representation” website:
“(Linda Darling-Hammond’s) ideas are being absolutely shoved down the throats of state school boards and legislators nationally.  And she is dead set on Common Core being the means to these ends. … To translate:  Linda Darling-Hammond pushes for communism in the name of social justice, for a prison-like view of schooling in the name of extended opportunity, and for an increased federal role in education in the name of fairness.”

(“The world will come to an end in 1999” This grim fate was predicted by Nostradamus, language teacher Charles Berlitz, a number of religious cult figures, and Yale President (1795-1817) Timothy Dwight IV.  All were mistaken.)

From Diane Ravitch:
“The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

Finally, a doomsday prediction from Sheldon Harnick in 1958 (Older readers, please feel free to sing along)

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much.
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lucky day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away. {{1}}

Folks, the world as we know it is not coming to an end.  In fact, the Common Core–done right–could make schools a lot more interesting and rewarding for both students and teachers.

The Common Core has four distinct aspects: 1) The State Standards, 2) Curricula, 3) Teacher Retraining (called ‘Professional Development’), and 4) Assessments.  Hysteria from right and left, and misinformation of the sort propagated by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus {{2}} in the New York Times ‘Review’ on June 8th don’t help.  Calming down will.

The Standards themselves could get us out of the box we’re now in– a narrow curriculum–because they call for critical thinking, speaking persuasively, listening, teamwork and some other skills that make sense, in addition to math and English.  They raise the academic bar in most places (although Massachusetts believes its current standards are more demanding).  Although they were developed by governors and others in the states, the Common Core State Standards do have a Washington connection: the Obama Administration has used Race to the Top grants to get states to sign on. All but 5 states have, although some are now wavering.

States and districts are free to choose whatever Curricula they wish, because this is not a national curriculum created by ‘pointy-headed bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Education.’  Instead, the curriculum part of the Common Core is likely to be a free-for-all, with publishers and hucksters alike stamping all their materials “Aligned with the Common Core.”  Buyer beware!  On the plus side, classroom teachers are developing units and sharing them when they proved to be effective. New York State and New York City are encouraging teachers to share, and I hope there will be a lot of that going on.

Many teachers will need retraining, because the Common Core requires new ways of teaching.  Because the Common Core assumes that students will have a lot more responsibility, many teachers will have to learn to give up control.  So far I haven’t heard of any states or districts ponying up the dollars that the retraining will cost, and that could be a problem.

The Assessments, however, are a bigger problem and may turn out to be the soft underbelly of the whole enterprise.  The Feds are paying two consortia to develop the tests, and the government contracts specify that the tests must produce data that can be used to evaluate teachers and principals!

Moreover, the test developers envision computer-based tests, where kids wearing headphones are sitting in front of desktop computers, clicking and writing short responses (which may be graded by machines).  They’re thinking this way, one consortium representative told me, because “We don’t trust teachers.”

Here’s what I believe: The Common Core will fail miserably unless we trust teachers. Computers cannot assess speaking and listening skills, nor teamwork, nor about half of the skill set the Common Core values.  That requires well-trained professionals.

So we have a choice: Rely upon computers to test that narrow band (of same-old, same-old stuff). If we do that, many teachers will teach to that test because they know they’re being evaluated on those scores, and that in turn means that nothing important will change. Say goodbye to the spirit and essence of Common Core.

Or we can learn to trust teachers, teachers who will be better trained because we will, of course, get smart and invest in Professional Development.

So the advent of the Common Core is not the end of the world, dire predictions to the contrary notwithstanding. It’s an incredible opportunity for teachers to reclaim their profession.

—————-

[[1]]1. The Kingston Trio made that song very popular in the mid-1960’s.[[1]]

[[2]]2. For openers, “Who’s Minding the Schools?” manages to conflate the Common Core State Standards and curriculum. The Standards are NOT curriculum; what is taught and how it’s taught are left to states and districts, but the authors call it ‘a radical curriculum.’[[2]]

An Open Letter to the Architects of the Common Core

Dear Architects of the Common Core,

How do you propose to test the skills and capabilities learned by the 8th graders at King Middle School in Portland, Maine?  If you missed our recent NewsHour piece, you may watch it here.  In just 11:38, correspondent John Tulenko and producer David Wald brilliantly capture how a 4-month ‘deeper learning’ project changed the lives of Liva Pierce, Emma Schwartz, Nat Youngrin and other young students.

John made four trips to Portland, beginning last October. He was there when the two science teachers explained the project: the kids were going to imagine and then design their own energy-generating devices that would improve people’s live.

The kids were clearly intimidated.  Liva Pierce told John, “That’s way too much. I don’t know the first thing about electricity. I don’t know the first thing about windmills. I am totally going to fail.”

Emma Schwartz was equally pessimistic: “First of all, I can’t build anything, and I have never handled a screwdriver in my entire life or an electric drill. Like, this isn’t going to work.”

So what happened?  Over the next four months the King School 8th graders worked in teams to build robots (and held a competition).  Next they read extensively about wind power and then constructed their own wind turbines (another competition).  These regular kids in a regular public school learned by failing, just as we do in life.  For example, Nat Youngrin’s sound-controlled robot failed during the competition because as Nat explained, he hadn’t anticipated that the cheers of the crowd would drown out the sound of his clapped commands, making his system inoperable.  But Nat didn’t quit; he learned and moved on.

The culmination of the final phase–designing energy-generating devices–was not a competition but a public performance.  Each 8th grader had to get up in front of a large crowd of fellow students and adults from the community to explain their device’s function, the science behind it, and to ‘sell’ its practicality.  Emma and Liva were poised, confident and determined.  In just four months they had been changed–I would say ‘transformed.’

What knowledge, skills and capabilities did Emma, Liva, Nat and the others acquire? Here’s a short list: the value of teamwork; the importance of grit and tenacity; the science of electricity, wind, et cetera; the art and science of public speaking/communication; the importance of citizenship and making a contribution to society; confidence in their own power to create a meaningful life; and, finally, a sense of wonder.  (I would also wager that the adults came away with a new appreciation for education, students and teachers.)

Is that overstating it? Watch the piece and decide for yourself.

But here’s my problem.  I am following the Common Core story with interest and am pleased that we are going to raise standards and challenge our students more.  I know the Common Core lists “Speaking and Listening” as one of its four English Language Arts priorities for grades 6-12, and that is broken down to include “comprehension and collaboration” and “presentation of knowledge and ideas.”  That is, you folks are using all the right words and saying all the right things.  That’s a step, or two, in the right direction.

However, so far I have not seen anything that convinces me that our system is anywhere near ready to test for the skills and capabilities that we witnessed those 8th graders acquire at King Middle School.

If past is prologue, things that aren’t being tested won’t end up being taught. It’s not just kids who ask, “Is this going to be on the test?”  These days, when test scores determine which adults get fired, they’re probably the first ones to ask, “Is this going to be on the test?”

If it’s not tested, then say goodbye to that King School program and others like it.

After all, what sort of standardized paper-and-pencil (or computer-based) assessment can test for grit, teamwork, communication, innovation, ambition and the like?  To test those skills and capabilities, we would have to be willing to go back to the days when we trusted teachers to assess their students.  We would have to back away from our current small-minded policies that embrace test results as a way to judge, threaten and punish teachers–and instead use tests and assessments as we once did, to improve learning and teaching.

(Eduwonk’s Andy Rotherham has some other concerns about the Common Core here.)

I predict that parents, teachers and students would go to the ramparts before they’d allow marvelous programs like King Middle School’s “Expeditionary Learning” program to disappear.

And I also hope that millions of people will watch our report and say “Let’s do that in our schools because that’s what we want our kids to experience, and because that’s what we want our kids to be: confident and capable, just like those kids in Portland.”

Even if it means saying to hell with the tests.