In the past week there has been a dust up on several blogs as to whether assertions about the purposes of language in the Bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act–ECAA, that has now unanimously passed out of Senate Committee, amounts to conspiracy theories. Now I cannot speak for others, but I too have read every page of ECAA. I recognize what certain terms mean and what other synonyms for the same phrases have been over the decades. We get to talk about those terms and that history without being accused of theorizing when we are having a fact-based discussion with sources. Moreover, the ECAA, whatever the intent of the Senators approving it or those who drafted it, has language that forces all states to abandon the “didactic purpose” of K-12 education because of how it defines “Challenging State Academic Standards” in the legislation.
Likewise, by mandating that states must use assessments that target ‘higher order thinking skills’ Congress adopts what that term has come to mean in education. Lauren Resnick laid it out in a 1987 National Academy of Sciences report explained here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/muzzling-minds-all-over-the-globe-while-trumpeting-higher-order-skills/ Marc Tucker, her co-director of the New Standards Project and its performance standards, explained it here in 1988 while he was at the National Center for Education and the Economy. http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el_198802_tucker.pdf Tucker also linked it to the fulfillment of Peter Drucker’s social vision that I explained here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/fostering-faithful-followers-for-anticipatory-democracy-created-by-reinventing-governments/ The 1968 book The Age of Discontinuity book from Drucker I wrote about is the same one Tucker cited in 1988 as necessitating a new vision of K-12 and the shift from basic skills to “higher order thinking.’
Now I will admit that I have always thought HOTS, as I abbreviate it, functioned like dialectical thinking, but I am a precise person. I do not theorize as to what is going on except in the privacy of my own mind or in speculations with a cat sitting in my lap as I research. We get to tie HOTS in ECAA to the term ‘dialectical thinking’ like we are all back at U of Moscow in the 60s because Educational Leadership published a series of essays in the 80s by Richard Paul where he explained that HOTS, and his concept of critical thinking that was equivalent to it, were also known as dialectical thinking. He cited Resnick and Tucker as I linked to above. Paul also made it clear that all these terms are designed around participation in a new, different kind of ‘democracy’ going forward.This is from an essay called “McPeck’s Mistakes: Why Critical Thinking Applies Across Disciplines and Domains”.
“If you believe in democracy you must believe that citizens have the potential to judge. If you believe that one primary function is to prepare students for participation in democracy, you must agree that helping students refine their ability to judge social, political, and economic questions (and questions to which these subjects apply) as clearmindedly, fairly, and rationally as possible is among the most important and useful functions of education. Use of ‘common sense’ is not inborn, but developed.”
And monitoring that development, and manipulating it as needed, through learning tasks, student learning objectives, prescribed activities, formative assessments, etc is precisely what the ECAA calls for once we track the language in it through to its actual meaning. http://www.nciea.org/publication_PDFs/CADRE%20CFA-StudentGrowthReport-Final.pdf is an April 2015 report called “Using a Learning Progression Framework to Assess and Evaluate Student Growth.” It is from the Center of Assessment involved in the pilot greenlighted under ECAA except those materials and the Student Learning Objectives Toolkit are in use in districts and states far beyond New Hampshire. The Cognitive Rigor Matrix described also relates to dialectical thinking and HOTS. That is what creates the cognitive complexity being called for.
All the references to “careful study of student reasoning” or “understand student reasoning” or “based on student reasoning” are all trying to monitor the extent to which the student has moved beyond what Ralph Tyler called the ‘right answer’ syndrome into dialectical thinking. The desire to shift the Learning Progression (described in depth in my book) to “cultivating formative practices” comes from the desire to ensure that the student is using the supplied ideas, principles, and concepts desired in their everyday interpretations since that is what guides and prompts behavior. The same reason is also why there is a determination to get at motivation. Thinking and emotions must be integrated and that must control action. Again, thanks to Richard Paul for being explicit and all these intentions attach to these words and practices mandated or allowed by ECAA regardless of the intentions of any politician that votes for it.
Before I go back to the 1960s to show once again just how long this desire to use the bribery power of the federal purse and its regulatory power to change the nature of K-12 education, let’s remember that virtually everyone involved confessed their transformative reasons. That’s why my book has so many footnotes. No need to speculate or theorize. If people say they are coordinating around a particular purpose, they do not get excused from scrutiny because someone yells ‘conspiracy.’ Anyone here ever hear of Guy Fawkes and the 1605 Gunpowder Plot? People conspire around the desire to get or keep political and economic power and to impose their pet belief systems on others. Anyone ever hear of Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley? Who a 16th Century Monarch married mattered if the ruler was a she because it affected political and economic power. Who had it and who wanted it.
Only someone being disingenuous or acting as a historical simpleton can look at something like ECAA and not recognize its potential to have a transformative, permanent effect on what individual citizens believe, know, or can do. That’s a great deal of power and if my book and this blog do anything it is track down confessions of using education for transformative purposes, whether “We the People’ acting as individuals would consent or not. Certainly no parent would consent to formative assessment if it were accurately described and understood. To get at what makes assessment of thinking now different I want to go back to the description of Science: A Process Approach created to be an innovative curriculum in the 1960s that would be accessible to all “economic, ethnic, educational, social, geographical” groups without any “marked effects on student achievement.”
Does that sound like an obligation to close the achievement gap and have Equity in learning to anyone else? The Process Approach was not really about facts or concepts and that shift was controversial at the time. It too had a Learning Progression designed to practice specified behaviors. The whole point was to “develop in students the intellectual and investigative skills of the scientist, and hopefully these skills will provide a generalized method of defining and solving problems which can be applied in other subject areas as well.” So in the 1960s there was a desire to look for Transfer to New, Untaught situations and different contexts. A Process Approach called it ‘Generalizing Experience’ instead of Rigor, but it too had what it called ‘Competency Measures’ that employed “content and materials different from those used in the exercises so the student must apply what he has learned in a new situation.”
I bolded those terms because the Common Core has the same stated goals in what it is assessing for. That Learning Progression link and what Student Learning Outcomes means wants the same. Between the early 60s and the 1998 publication of the Assessing Science Understanding and now, the behavioral scientists discovered practicing behaviors was not enough. Students needed to be guided by principles and concepts they acted on arationally. That is what proficiency and competency actually now mean as this post made clear http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/police-power-to-compel-adult-beliefs-meanwhile-values-manipulation-captures-young-minds-forever/ This federal manipulation apparently began with unappreciated language in the 2002 No Child Left Behind that ECAA would double down on.
Cognitive science does not just want to practice behaviors. It needs inside the black box and it needs the ‘thinking’ to be grounded in emotion and dialectical in the sense of HOTS and rigor. Quoting a definition of ‘learning science’ that dovetails with what I call cybernetics, let’s go back to 1998 in what must have been created as part of that New Standards Project that is now the renamed Common Core:
“in the constructivist view, learning science is a process of making connections: connections among experiences with the natural world and mental representations of those experiences; and connections among concepts that result in the generation of principles new to the learner. These concepts and principles, in turn, are connected to events and experiences in the natural world.”
Monitoring and manipulating those mental representations that guide perception of reality and everyday behavior and likely actions is precisely what SLOs, a high quality assessment, Competency-based education, and formative assessment are all about. It’s what led to the Math and Reading Wars as my book makes clear. It’s why Outcomes-based education never goes away. It just gets renamed.
It’s why this post’s title does not impugn anyone or allege a ‘conspiracy’. It simply understands ECAA in terms of the language used and the history of those terms. That statute and the educational activities and assessments to be carried out by states and school districts under its terms has a clear trajectory and purpose, whatever the personal intentions of anyone involved is.
All of these aims are simply too tied to facts with clear purposes of social engineering. We cannot allow the mind and personality to be manipulated into an invisible prison by using the C word to bar rational discussion.
Politicians wanting to expand their authority without either consent or publicity. That’s not a conspiracy. It’s just history properly understood. In a didactic, fact-based, soon to be forbidden, old-fashioned way.