If Standards=Outcomes=Objectives, What is the Real Common Core?

Have you ever thought about the fact the schools are the one social institution that almost everyone of our future voters and workers passes through? Usually for years at a time. Well you should for a minute because every person who aspires to major social or political or economic change has known it and relied on it. And said so repeatedly. And if the designers of what became a controversial policy or practice were open enough initially to tell us why, we should listen. Tomorrow we will focus on why. Today we will focus on the what. The fundamentals of the proposed changes to the schools and why we get name changes from decade to decade, but no real change in the purpose or function of the education establishment’s idea of reform.

To understand Common Core’s reality and not just the sound bytes of its sales/PR campaign, we have to go back to the 1930s and something called the 8 Year Study. OK– I heard that skeptical reader out there who is quite sure I must be stretching it to go for a damning comparison. I am using a copy of the report that was republished and updated by Maine educators in April 2000. Does that sound stale? It looks to me like it was getting ready for implementation under the last round of federal education reform-Goals 2000. You want more up to date? Something that ties directly to our current version of Common Core and how it is really going to be implemented? Would the Fall 2009 AERA Curriculum Studies Newsletter do? Still the template. Still relevant. Right now.

My favorite part is recognizing that what the 8 Year Study and our version of Common Core are actually rejecting is what we are being led to believe we are getting. Does this sound familiar?

“Until recent years learning in school has been thought of as an intellectual process of acquiring certain skills and of mastering prescribed subject matter. It has been assumed that physical and emotional reactions are not involved in the learning process, but if they are, they are not very important.”

So in the name of national consistent content standards out goes school as an intellectual process. Prescribed subject matter. Also known as Content and Knowledge. The best that has been thought and said by the best minds over the centuries. The cultural foundation of the world we have and the worlds that ended tragically. All gone. But we at least get a newfound emphasis on the physical and emotional. That’s convenient isn’t it? What a useful way to make learning accessible to all. Except learning has a new meaning. It now means changing beliefs, feelings, values, and behaviors. No they didn’t give us a Glossary of what these terms actually are now to mean. I guess that’s what I am here for.

And the new concept of learning from the 8 Year Study? Coming to a school and classroom near you soon via Common Core and NCLB state waivers and Race to the Top grants and the current avalanche of publicity over bullying and a few other methods we will be talking about this summer? Those are my snarks in parentheses.

“The newer concept of learning holds that a human being develops through doing those things (Projects! Tasks! Authentic Problem Solving!) which have meaning to him; (Relevant!; Real World!) that the doing involves the whole person in all aspects of his being; (Engaging!) and that growth takes place as each experience leads to greater understanding and more intelligent reaction to new situations.” (Rigor! Higher Order Thinking!)

Well that will certainly not be driving dynamic job growth in the 21st Century or genuine innovation which always requires deep knowledge of the type being soundly, if quietly, rejected. We keep getting name changes of goals and purposes to obscure the changed nature of school from the transmission of knowledge and skills to a place that stimulates the “whole being” so each student has “opportunities for the full exercise of his physical, intellectual (don’t get excited, they mean practical and everyday uses),emotional, and spiritual powers as he strives to achieve recognition and a place of usefulness and honor in adult society.”

Ralph Tyler came up with the obscuring term Objectives in the 1930s as well as “assessment” to try to hide just how very little graduates of such schools would actually know. Outcomes replaced it in the 80s and 90s. Parents and taxpayers of course wanted good outcomes and solid academic results. Nobody told them the entire nature of the education game and purpose had been transformed. All that money wasted because no one would tell the public what was really going on. The inevitably poor academic results, since that was no longer the actual purpose or goal in the schools and districts adopting this vision, created the need for a name change. Standards, high would be nice for a change, replaced outcomes with no change in actual goals or focus.

If you listen carefully to the advocates of Common Core you will hear them frequently use outcomes, objectives, and standards interchangeably. Sometimes skills and competencies as well. The things a student is to believe. How each student should feel. What each student should value. How each student is to behave as a matter of habit.

That’s the Common Core. And tomorrow I will tell you why using the designers actual quotes. From a 21st Century source.



7 thoughts on “If Standards=Outcomes=Objectives, What is the Real Common Core?

  1. I am so glad that you have started this blog. I had been devouring the posts at KTM after having concerns about the way math instruction (or a seeming lack of) was being handled for my youngest child, a first grader in Gwinnett’s “world-class” schools. I am also a regular reader of the AJC Get Schooled blog, and didn’t realize you were a frequent commenter at both sites until you mentioned you were also “Student of History.”

    This has been the strangest year that my kids have ever experienced in a public school setting. Disturbing to me as a parent. The local elementary school my sons have attended this year has been hyperfocused on behavior…they supposedly adhere to something called the “Raise Responsibility System.” They are not allowed to talk in the hallways (not even whisper) and they enforce silent lunches regularly and hold them hostage from being picked up by their parents in the afternoon car-rider area if any of them are caught talking while waiting for their parents. I’ve never seen anything like it. I understand the need for an orderly environment, but it’s as if speaking without permission has become a crime!

    Meanwhile, they are pushing a school-wide pep-rally-like environment using a book called “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” and have discussions about the the habits in the book. They have a “Book of Honor” that some students receive the “privilege” to sign. When I asked my oldest son what someone had to do to sign the book, he explained that you had to “always follow the rules without being told.”

    There’s a lot of talk at the school about student leadership. Apparently, good leaders are to be complacent rule-followers who obey authority like little minions.

    I think I read on one of your prior posts that you’d be discussing PBIS — I recall reading somewhere that it was originally developed as a positive-behavior program for special education students. Well, it’s being used in my middle-schooler and high-schooler’s schools this year, school-wide. It seems to be a running joke amongst the students and many of the teachers, but the principals push it big-time. How does this stuff get approved for use in the schools, and WHY? I don’t recall being informed as a parent before this stuff gets decided…but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

    I’m hanging on your every post now! : )

    • Well Georgia Mom. That type of specific information is precisely why I started this blog. I did not know Gwinnett was already piloting but I do know precisely where all this comes from and have the cites to back it up. I will get to PBIS specifically next week. There is some more foundations I need to lay. Sounds like you are very aware of what a shift to an affective focus looks and feels like. And how violating at a fundamental level it feels.

      There is an international movement afoot to argue that happiness and well-being are the primary purposes of government. I have come across it often enough and it always feels jarring. The new accreditation standards put out by AdvancED in conjunction with Common Core have the schools collecting data on each student’s physical, emotional, and social needs. Which magically tracks back to the definition of well-being in numerous documents I have copies of as I tracked down education reform all over the world.

      Please keep the kind of specific stories Georgia Mom provided coming. By August we will know which districts and states are piloting transitional OBE, and which are aggressively moving on to Transformational OBE.

      And hopefully which ones are preserving solid academics in case anyone is looking for a place to move.

      But be careful. Fulton County is proof that there is an organized effort to shut down those beacons of hope.

      And that a charter agreement is a superb vehicle to do just that.

      • This post is so very interesting! My daughter is in grad school and we are seeing a weakening of education even at that level.

        Georgia Mom, the practices you describe in your local school are just disturbing. Is this what education has come to?

  2. PBS is being used at the school where I teach and I love it! It stands for positive behavior support, and uses positive feedback to reward good behavior. Students and classes earn things such as extra recess, class picture hanging by the office, guest readers etc. These can be determined by the school. We reward good behavior instead of punishing bad. Teachers have their hands tied as far as behavior is concerned today. We therefor reward those making good choices and usually the others follow. We expect zero voices in the hall so as not to bother other classes but allow soft voices (level 1 or 2) in the lunchroom.

  3. I’m sorry but in my last 5 years, 2006 – 2011, I saw more of the rewarding of the nature of, “Way to go, Johnnie, you returned a wallet with money in it (instead of stealing/keeping it) wow, that’s great, let me give you a positive referral, that was awesome.” Which leads one to wonder how the child who was raised to know right from wrong, and thinks, “What’s the big deal, he was just being honest?” views the student who is being rewarded for doing the “right thing.” Because under PBS you are to find something good to praise every child for, every period in middle school, every day, making the praise as meaningless as it should be. But, no reward can compensate the child who does what is right, every day, follows rules, respects adults and fellow students, respects him/her self, and gets the job done. PBS isn’t designed for that child. The fuss is made over the kids who make the most fuss. The children who effectively ruined many other students’ ability to excel in any given content driven class, by actively challenging as often as they could for attention, will be PBSed the most and the other children just watch this dog and pony show. It can be very disheartening.

    The school population where I taught 8th graders Algebra was “93% free and reduced lunch” in socio-economic jargon, and I have taught kids put away for murder, a State Champion leader named Mr. Football who is in Raiford for dealing hard drugs, and pre-pre IB students who are Yale, Georgetown and MIT grads. Like Gatto says, there’s not a whole lot of difference in the potential of the poorest or the wealthiest when they set their minds to something. but behavior seems to be the focus at school, and learning to do math successfully not so much.

  4. I just posted this on Facebook, and while its not apropos, per se, to the thread at hand, its important to understand the degree to which the Left has come to thoroughly dominate K-12 public education in this (and other) western nations, and a very good barometer of the degree and pervasiveness of that control is the degree to which individual teachers, within a day to day classroom setting, feel protected, shielded, and empowered enough within that institutional milieu to believe they can – at taxpayer expense – get away with this kind of behavior and turn their classrooms into, as David Horowitz has described with respect to higher ed, “one party” classrooms.

    This is a very clear indication, in my view, of the monocultural and monoideological uniformity that exists within the teacher’s colleges and which creates the “set point” for the general tenor, psychology, and intellectual environment for K-12 public education throughout the country. This mirrors very well the general atmosphere within the humanities and social science professorate throughout higher education as well.

    Public education is, as this blog well attests, essentially a satrapy of the cultural and political Left. When tax-supported teachers feel that they can flex their personal ideological muscles in this manner, at the expense of students (and the nation, frankly), and in public, its clear that such teachers percieve themselves to be a class of untouchables who will not ultimately be held accountable for their conduct, and will be shielded and defended by the educracy and their colleges within public ed.

    Sad it is.


    “Anyone who knows anything about the nature and atmosphere of today’s teachers colleges, and the kind of ideas and attitudes imparted therein, will have no problem at all understanding this teacher’s behavior, nor that this teacher, and most
    of her colleagues within the Philadelphia public school faculty and educracy (as well as many others across the nation) share similar attitudes and that the un
    ion and public education ideological wagons will circle around this individual no matter what ethical standards and rules were broken, nor how outrageous, to intellectually and morally normal adults, this behavior appears.

    A part of my personal library consists of college textbooks and post-graduate continuing education textbooks aimed at prospective public school teachers as well as keeping experienced teachers up to date on the latest leftist intellectual fads that pass through public education on a continual basis and form the core of most of what teachers actually learn while working toward certification. Nothing this teacher has done, nor the attitudes and beliefs expressed, is in any way inconsistent with a great deal of what passes in most teacher’s colleges as “education.”

    That this little taxpayer supported Morlock should be fired goes without really saying, but don’t look for anything like accountability from this school system. The union will be at her back, and the school administration will will make some symbolic gestures, and he’ll be back in the classroom.

    The Left, for all intents and purposes, utterly controls American public education, at the state, local, and federal level – it is one of the causalities and conquests of the “long march through the institutions” that began within the Left in the seventies – and this kind of behavior, at taxpayer expense, is indicative of the degree to which the public education world has become isolated and homogenized, socially and ideologically.

    The fantastic irony of asserting that her public classroom is “democratic” and that therefore a Romney/Ryan shirt is inconsistent with those values (given the ideological leanings of the present occupant of the White House), as well as its general intellectual vacuity is nothing short of jaw-dropping, and the horror that fills one’s being as one contemplates how many similar teachers are at work across the nation on a daily basis, forming, molding, and shaping the values, beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions (while not actually imparting much in the way of either knowledge or critical thinking skills) can only be described as acute.


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