So much for revising Ohio’s standards

Back in April of 2016, I received a message from the Ohio Department of Education asking for input into the revision of Ohio’s Learning Standards in English Language Arts and Math.  I gleefully clicked the link to do my part to remedy the ELA portions, which I, like so many other teachers, have found to be woefully lacking in substance and utility.

I was quickly disappointed: The survey was difficult for even educators to complete. It was tedious as best, as we were asked to examine Every. Single. Standard. per grade level. I soon believed it to be a publicity stunt, not done sincerely. See NY example of the same: http://www.lohud.com/…/fix-common-core-disaster/81211306/

I communicated these concerns to a state board of education member, who responded that they shared my concerns, especially since it was communicated at a BOE meeting that the intent was “not to throw out the standards and not to listen to the ‘hype’ that is going around about the standards.”

Here is the hype:

Most parents and teachers in the U.S. don’t support the Common Core standards:

(CNSNews.com) – Less than half of Americans (49 percent) and only 40 percent of teachers now say they support Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Public support has dropped 16 percent since 2013, when 65 percent of Americans were in favor of the Common Core standards, according to the ninth annual Education Next poll released Tuesday (http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/poll-only-40-teachers-support-common-core)

I’ve seen the stats repeated over and over again. The explanations are numerous and the support for the Core is shriveling up. I don’t think I’d call that “hype.” I think I’d call it “fact.”  But I digress….

The Revision Process

There are 963 Common Core standards:
  • K-8 Math (229)
  • HS Math (156)
  • K-12 ELA (32)
  • K-5 ELA (250)
  • 6-12 ELA Literacy (296)

ODE asked for feedback standard by standard. Each piece of feedback entailed answering the following questions:

  1. Type of Suggestion Select the type of edit being suggested for the standard above. —Clarity—Grade Level Appropriate—Content Error—Other
  2. Claim. Provide a description of your content-focused issue or concern with the standard you identified.
 Characters 0/1000
  3. Resolution. Provide a description of a possible resolution to the issue that you claimed above.
 Characters 0/1000
  4. Research/Rationale* Provide research, information or data that supports the claim made above concerning this standard. Characters 0/1000 If you have none, enter “None” into the box.

I am licensed to teach 7-12th grade English. One grade level = 73 standards to review x 4 questions to answer per standard = 292 responses to provide for one grade level.

Who has the time to give 292 thoughtful responses? Multiply that by the number of children you have or the number of grade levels you teach. I am passionate about public education and even I don’t have the “grit” or time to spend giving feedback at that level of minutia.

ODE deliberately designed a “survey” with an astounding level of specificity and complexity. They knew that most people would not answer ALL of those questions, or even half of them.

Results

And surprise! Only 328 people in the entire state of Ohio responded to the ELA survey. That is not remotely statistically significant. Did ODE declare their survey to have a design failure (strikingly reminiscent of the PARCC debacle)?  Did they redesign the survey or solicit feedback? Did they create a different survey that was more user-friendly?

No! They made a report about it! And they emailed and tweeted about it proudly!

Revision Phase II

And then they acted on it. Yesterday I received a message from ODE asking me to examine and give feedback on the first round of revisions to the standards.

There are 578 total ELA standards.

ODE only revised 53 of them.

Here are highlights from these revisions:

  • 2 revisions were word transpositions, i.e. sounds (phonemes) is now phonemes (sounds)
  • 6 standards now include activating prior knowledge to make connections (which is impossible when you have no prior knowledge about a topic)
  • 6 standards had “content” deletions such as
    • deletion of “its”
    • deletion of “Bible” as an example of a religious work
    • Deletion of typing requirements in the standards for grades 4 (W4.6 can type one page in one sitting), 5 (W5.6 two pages in one sitting), and 6 (W6.6 three pages in one sitting)
  • 7 revisions added a single word or phrase such as:
    • grapheme
    • mood
    • idiom
    • changing “recognize” to “by recognizing”
  • 8 standards now have a retell or summarize component (to meet the demands of DIBELS screening, I presume)
  • 8 standards were revised by changing a word or two. Here are some of ODE’s changes in word choice:
    • unwasteful –> frugal
    • word –> language
    • beauty –> appeal
    • point of view –> perspective
    • point of view –> point of view or perspective (depending on the standard)
    • themes or topics –> themes and/or topic (because choice is important!)
  • The most common revision made is…. 17 standards are now broken down into

a. part a

b. part b

I am sure many teachers were confused by the complex sentences in the standards. This revision is sure to advance scores on the AIR tests. (/sarcasm)


Ironically, ODE revised other standards to delete a & b and rephrase the entire thing in a much more complex sentence. And some  of the changes ODE made are so convoluted as to be incomprehensible.

Example 1:
RI.3.8
Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text
(e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).
is now
RI.3.8 Describe the relationships between the reasons and points an author uses throughout a text.

What in the world is a point? And what’s the point behind decoupling the standard from the academic terminology that would give a teacher more clarity? Looking at the same standard for 4th grade, I see that it morphs into:

RI.4. Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.

And I am even more confused.


Example 2:

RL.11-12.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on
meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.
is now
RL.11-12.4
Determine the connotative, denotative, and figurative meanings of words and phrases as they are used in the text; analyze the impact of author’s diction, including multiple-meaning words or language that is particularly evocative to the tone and mood of the text.

Word chowder to word soup. Wouldn’t this be a great place for the a/b treatment?


Example 3

Surprise! I found this standard revision and a whole bunch more in the Proposed Standard Revision Comparison document on ODE’s site.

This is not the link ODE furnished educators to provide feedback.

L.11-12.10
By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
 is now
RL.11-12.10
By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and
proficiently, building background knowledge and activating prior knowledge in order to make personal, societal, and ethical connections that deepen understanding of
complex text
I actually like this change. It’s substantial. It’s clarifying. But that’s not the norm with what I saw, and since I don’t get paid a dime to evaluate ODE’s work, I’m done.

So yeah, ODE made more than 54 changes to the standards. We are only invited to comment on those select 54, though.

 What’s up with that, ODE?

Wouldn’t you think ODE would want educators and parents to be able to review and comment on all of the revisions? Why just these 54? It makes zero sense — which is the new normal from a state education department that is more interested in promoting for profit charter schools than it is with helping helping students actually succeed.

ODE also added hyperlinks to some resources, and they put a few words in the glossary. I didn’t count those, since ODE doesn’t see fit to include the glossary terms, definitions, or URLs for the hyperlinks.

What’s Missing

Nowhere in the revisions does ODE include adding creative writing or poetry back into the mix of required writing.

Nowhere did ODE add a standard for out of the box thinking or innovation.

Perhaps most important of all, these revisions do NOTHING to address the developmental inappropriateness of the K-3 reading standards.


Given that most Ohio teachers do not support the standards, given the abysmal response rate to the “survey,” and given the lack of meaningful revision to the standards, one can do nothing but conclude that this “revision” is really publicity stunt done to generate the illusion of buy-in.

Tweaking the standards isn’t enough. They need to be jettisoned completely, along with the tests. Go back to the old standards or adopt the pre-CCSS Massachusetts standards. Just get rid of anything that CCSS has touched. The brand itself is contaminated beyond redemption.