Dumbing Down and Data Collection

Thursday , 9, May 2013 Leave a comment

So far in this series I have covered how CCSS came to be, now we can address other issues related to CCSS.  First up, will the standards result in a “dumbed down” curriculum for our kids?  And then there is the issue of data collection.  What data will be collected, how will that data be handled and what will the data be used for?

An important concept to understand when talking about standards and curriculum is that standards drive curriculum.  So the standards set forth in CCSS will determine the curriculum that is taught in the classroom.  The standards will also determine what is on the national tests, because we then must measure what is being taught.  If teachers don’t teach what is on the test then their class will not perform well at test time.  It’s important for students to do well on tests because teacher pay will be directly tied to student performance on national tests.  Also, teachers can add only 15% of additional content to the existing standards, yet none can be deleted.  So, while I hope that teachers will use that additional 15% of content to enrich their lessons further, there is no incentive to do so.  If all we care about are test scores than we’ll continue to teach to the test.  The comments following this article written to address myths about CCSS, confirms that even teachers can’t agree on how this will play out.

So, what are the standards under CCSS?  You can find Georgia standards here.  A stated purpose of CCSS is to allow students to reach a deeper conceptual learning of material.  I am all for truly understanding the topic at hand, but, how has this played out so far?  Recently some examples from the classroom have been shared by concerned parents.  This math example illustrates how simple math concepts are being made unnecessarily difficult.  Dr. James Milgram, the only mathematician on the CC Validation Committee wouldn’t sign off on the standards for reasons given here.  This series of articles talks about the mathematics standards, but I think if we need to send home a cheat sheet for parents to help their second grader to relearn math from first grade, then something is wrong.

Standards for Language Arts (ELA) are the other piece of the current puzzle.  Dr. Stotsky, who was on the panel to develop the ELA standards has serious reservations about them.  Aside from the constraints listed above teachers will spend 50% of their time teaching informational texts such as technical manuals and Federal Reserve documents, to name a few of the recommended reading materials.  Do we want our kids spending half of their time in ELA reading manuals instead of classical literature or poetry?

Onto another topic of interest, data collection.  Just think of all those forms we fill out to enroll our kids and at the beginning of each school year.  Then throughout the year there are records of grades, attendance and test scores.  Remember that a requirement of RTTT is that states must participate in a massive student database (SLDS).  The purpose of the database is to not only house information for kids in our state, but to then be able to share that information easily with other states.  What will be recorded in this database?  CCSS allows for the collection of over 400 data points on each child including health care history, disciplinary history and religious affiliation to name a few.  Who has access to this information?  A variety of agencies can be granted access to this data under FERPA such as, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor.

Georgia has also signed up to pilot a program called inBloom which is funded by The Gates Foundation.  This blog talks about how inBloom is going to store our kid’s data in a virtualized environment, yet they aren’t guaranteeing that it will be secure.  So my kid’s data may or may not be safe with this third party entity and will be given to this third party without my consent…..well, like Hack Education said, hope they’re ready for some lawsuits if info is leaked.

And, for your viewing pleasure, an informational video called “Data is Power” from the Georgia Department of Education, which I really think says it all.  With the push to collect data on our kids from pre-k through college or career, it is easy to see that whoever has the data wields the power.  Imagine taking your child to see the career counselor at school and the counselor pulls up your child’s file.  Instead of the counselor asking your child what he/she wants to pursue after school, they instead guide your child to a certain path.  Whether that is a trade school, two year college, four year college or a shovel ready job will be predetermined because they have many years worth of data on your child and they know where he/she will best fit into society.

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