We must not abandon Common Core

We tried setting education standards locally.

Didn't work.

We tried having each state adopt and apply its own standards.

But results varied wildly from state to state, leaving millions of children with inadequate educations.

Finally, U.S. governors, educators and corporate leaders put their heads together and decided that children, to be successful adults and competitive workers in a global economy, need a certain bundle of skills.

What they produced after several years of work was called the Common Core State Standards, and it was hailed by Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives.

Then it was adopted by 45 states, including Maine.

Wednesday, a small group of Mainers launched a citizens' petition campaign to stop implementation of the standards in Maine, and similar efforts are underway in other states.

We hope Mainers will listen politely, study the issue and then decline to sign these petitions.

This is not a federal government issue, although critics like to identify it with President Barack Obama and liken it to the Affordable Care Act.

The Common Core was initiated by the nation's governors. One of the prime movers was Republican Jeb Bush, then governor of Florida.

One of several flaws of No Child Left Behind was that it allowed states to set their own educational standards.

Some states took that effort seriously, and some did not. Most states were not very ambitious for fear of angering parents or teacher unions.

That became clear when millions of students who met their state standards continually failed standardized tests based upon tougher global standards.

Taxpayers have been justifiably angry about supporting schools that produce students who cannot read, do basic math or who require remedial work to succeed in college.

The Common Core standards are based on what employers and parents have long demanded: proficiency.

A student graduating from high school should be able to write a sentence and construct an argument. He or she should have mastered basic math and algebra, now necessary in not only the engineering department but on the factory floor.

There have been a raft of reports and stories written about how American children are falling behind children in other countries, especially in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

An equal number of studies have been done showing that advanced reading, writing and comprehension abilities are now necessary to compete for the best jobs in our own country.

There is evidence aplenty showing that people entering the workforce without those basic skills will be slotted into the lowest-paying jobs, or perhaps unable to find any jobs at all.

People without skills are unable to support themselves and become a burden on society.

That's why it is so surprising to see the Common Core standards becoming the focal point of tea party opposition.

While it has an appealing ring, leaving standards up to local schools and school boards is inefficient and impractical.

Students in wealthy enclaves will get ahead with or without standards, while children from inner cities and impoverished rural areas will continue to fall behind.

The Common Core standards are an attempt to set a higher bar and make a high school diploma really mean something again.

When an employer or a college acceptance office looks at an applicant with a high school diploma, they need to know what that means, whether that applicant is from Madawaska or Manhattan.

The Common Core standards are the only way to achieve equal outcomes for all students.


The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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CRYSTAL WARD's picture

common core will fail

Standards are fine -- from Maine learning results to the common core the major problem is the belief that all students can achieve the same things at the same time and if they cannot do that they are failures. Students must pass the test to show they have learned the required items at the set time or they fail . Well people are not all the same --and no set of standards can make them the same -- students learn at different rates and learn concepts at different times. It comes down to the old pounding the square peg into the round hole -- we can not force all students to do anything at the same TIME. Has anyone figured out yet that many students do not take the mandated test seriously and therefore do not show what they can do?? Do any of you remember taking standardized test and not doing your very best ?? maybe filling in the dots to make a pattern or doing half the test and then just filling in the dots. or just plain not caring about the test because it meant nothing to your grades. Standards are fine -

Peter Jokinen's picture

Another of the intended

Another of the intended side-effects of NCLB was to destroy enough of the public school systems across our country in order to make it easier for them to force "School Vouchers" and let the taxpayer fund their Protestant Madrasas.

Yes, let us dump Common Core, and adopt the Texas School Board-written textbooks which substitute genuine knowledge for fantasy and superstition.

Let them leave our children and grandchildren fit for little else than serfdom, and our nation to becoming a fifth-rate has-been.

Don't count on me helping this disgusting petition effort.

 's picture

Nowthere's a solution

The Texas School Book standards - remove Thomas Jefferson from American History and replace him with a 5th century monk. Sound standard. A school book commission, dominated by Dominionist Christians, which denies science whenever the opportunity arises. Smart.
Peter you have it backwards. The Texas Commission replaces genuine knowledge with fantasy and superstition.

Peter Jokinen's picture

where's the edit button?

You have that right. I didn't notice until the next day that I had typed that exactly the wrong way around from what I had intended to say.

 's picture

Gravel's last paragraph

being a perfect demonstration of that approach

 's picture

Then I'm sorry I was so harsh

Haven't seen many people praising the Texas Board of Education. And in my defense I do take it seriously when conservatives re-write our constitutional history with their ultra-individualistic 20th century radical ideology. I prefer the real thing in context of the founder's times.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You act like the slide in

You act like the slide in education quality started with NCLB. The fact is that education quality has been in a tailspin long before NCLB. In fact, NCLB was intended to be a solution to a long eroding education system.

Perhaps a quick look in the mirror reveals the problem with modern education. Removing children that don’t want to learn from those who do want to learn is the best solution.

Any solution that does not address the quality of the student will fail in my opinion.

People are selling themselves into serfdom willingly on the illusion of government collectivism, the illusion government can solve all problems, and the illusion of safety.


The NCLB was the worst thing

The NCLB was the worst thing for education. No one wanted to believe when the NCLB was enacted that it would be bad for education but everyone touted it as the solution. Big surprise that it failed. Just like common core will fail if it is not tweaked and government stays involved with mandating how it is implemented. The one thing that teachers know and government officials seem to disregard is ALL CHILDREN ARE UNIQUE AND LEARN IN DIFFERENT WAYS. When you try to treat everyone as if they are identical to others you will run into problems every time. Little Susie may be a great test taker but Little Johnny may fail every test he takes even though he knows the material.

Removing students just because they appear to not want to learn is doing a disservice to all children. Maybe the issue is not that they don't want to learn but that no one has found the way the child learns best. Maybe the child is so stressed at the thought of taking a test that they know they won't pass because they are not test takers that they give up before they start.

Maybe the issue is we need to start treating our children as unique individuals instead of trying to treat them as if they are all identical.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

It is not the teacher’s

It is not the teacher’s responsibility to find how each student learns best. The teacher does not have time to teach in that manner. It is the teacher’s responsibility to teach to the majority of the students.

It is up to the parents to augment what the student’s performance in school.


A good and proficient teacher

A good and proficient teacher will ALWAYS find out how each student learns best. In fact they are probably in a better position to do that than a parent is. And the teacher that figures out their students is usually a real educator and not one just there for the paycheck and the benefits.

 's picture


Simple fact is every child wants to learn. Each has their own set of questions they want answered. One might want to win at Oxford Plains- good teachers use that to encourage the student to learn reading, project planning, meeting deadlines, physics, math, chemistry, etc all from the perspective of a race car.
Another student might be interested in farming, or crops, or well anything. When you couple a child's interest with their style of learning with strategic and honest mileposts and the child will learn.
Children who don't want to learn have had the learning driven out of them by bad administrations and bad teachers.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

"Simple fact is every child

"Simple fact is every child wants to learn."

"Children who don't want to learn have had the learning driven out of them by bad administrations and bad teachers."

Contradiction - either "every" child wants to learn or not!

Is there really enough time in the day for a teacher to behavior this way? Let's hear from active teachers, not armchair or teachers in training.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“A good and proficient

“A good and proficient teacher will ALWAYS find out how each student learns best. In fact they are probably in a better position to do that than a parent is.”

This is just an idealization of what you wish, not what is. A teacher never has time to understand how each student learns best, and a teacher never will.

The simple fact that a teacher is constrained to the classroom means a teacher cannot find how a student learns best if that answer is beyond the constraints of the classroom - simple deduction.

We can only hope for the broadest reach – that is the realism of this discussion.

David  Cote's picture

Have to disagree, Mark...

My sister taught junior high and high school students for eleven years in the L/A school system. That's Los Angeles, not Lewiston Auburn. She has a great knack for sizing up a child's learning strengths and weaknesses in a relatively short amount of time. Through the knowledge she gained she employed a teaching tecnique that fostered a child's strength first and foremost with the goal of building confidence. Her best work was guiding the students through their individual weaknesses by using the confidence gained as a springboard in tackling, and solving problems those students would otherwise pass on. The meat and potatoes of her method was she showed caring in her student's welfare, praising accomplishments and showing an empithatic, yet firm demeanor in times when the learning was tough. The thing is she cared, and her students took note of that and they started caring more. That is the mark of an excellent teacher. The art of teaching can be personalized and can be done so with incredibly positive results. All it takes is engagement and mutual respect. The fact she accomplished that in a school system of a city with a population of four million impresses the Hell out of me. It can be done Mark.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Given there are no absolutes

Given there are no absolutes or perfect outcomes in life, I’m willing to wager that your sister came across some kids she did not reach and could not reach.

Moreover, you failed to address the crux of my argument, which is that if the time your sister spent attempting to teach or reach problem kids takes away from teaching the majority of the other kids, I say it does.

Have you ever asked your sister any of the following questions?

1. Have you ever come across a kid you could not reach? Yes/No
2. Have you ever felt that time spend trying to reach troubled kids detracted from fully developing other students?
3. Have you ever given up on a student when because they disturbed the other student’s ability to learn?

Let’s stop looking at the flowers and get our hands in the soil – ask or answer the tough question.

 's picture

Do you honestly know

Mark, are you a teacher? Have you studied how students learn? Do you know ANYTHING about education except what you read in the newspaper?

I am one year away from getting my certification. I am a teacher in training and my training tells me that I do need to understand how each student learns best. Getting to know students is part of my job.

Teachers don't just teach in the classroom. We don't just teach the basic subjects. Standardized tests are not the answer. Removing students who don't want to learn is not the answer. Letting the teachers do their job is the answer. I want whats best for ALL students and standardized tests are not whats best.

NCLB was a great idea, but not in practice. Common Core will allow students to transfer schools between states and schools and not be behind. What is the best way to ensure all students are meeting the goals? The government says standardized tests. MY opinion is that standardized tests are not the answer.

Lewiston Middle School Students spent 3 months last year in standardized tests instead of learning. The problem is that there are too many standardized tests. Let the teachers use the standards to guide the education as well as the students learning styles and interests. Let the school districts decide how to assess the learning of all students based on the students and the demographics of the districts.

When NCLB was enacted, Maine was a top state in education. We cannot meet our current goals because it is so high and our demographics have changed in a way that we need to change to help students, but we can't because of the government. We need to give the control back to the teachers.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I have taught University math

I have taught University math and engineering courses albeit not a teacher by profession.

“Teachers don't just teach in the classroom.”

Depends on which teachers you are referencing. Primary education is taught in a classroom environment. One or two field trips a year means nothing in the overall scheme of things.

Moving students who don’t want to learn to an environment more suited to their abilities and interest does allow others to learn and accelerate more than they would have if instruction is interrupted by a few problem children. It should not be about the few problem students; it should be all about those who want to be present in the moment and engaged in learning.

Why do you think kids in private school score better than children in public schools? Perhaps they are around other students who are motivated to learn; who are present to learn.

“Lewiston Middle School Students spent 3 months last year in standardized
tests instead of learning.”

Your claim seems a bit unrealistic, so I need you to cite sources. In similar discussions, people from Lewiston complained about having standardized tests on the weekend. What is the truth?

“When NCLB was enacted, Maine was a top state in education.”

Maine was certainly not the top state in the union in education; what is the quantitative unit of measurement that Maine (or you) used to draw that conclusion? Educate the readers please. The stage is yours.

 's picture

"Primary education is taught

"Primary education is taught in a classroom environment."

I have taken students on field trips, right outside the school for activities where they look at animals, trees, grass and habitats. That to me is not a classroom environment.

My sources for students spending time in standardized testing would be my 8th grade brother and my experience in classrooms that take these tests. NWEA's are given 3 times a year. There are 3 tests within this test that are given over a 3 week period. The NECAP's are given once a year and are taken over the course of one week. All that equals 10 weeks of testing. On top you spend about a week in advance for preparation of all students testing. That equals about 3 months of testing.

My statement about Maine being a top school before NCLB comes from what I have learned in my training to be a teacher.

Can you cite your sources as primary education being taught only in a classroom?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yea, and I played golf a time

Yea, and I played golf a time or two each year, but that does not make me Tiger Woods.

A field trip is just that – a field trip. Where is 95% or more of instruction held?

The classroom.


Juniors in Lewiston High

Juniors in Lewiston High School are REQUIRED to take the SAT on a Saturday morning. It is a required test for them to be able to graduate. Maine standards, before NCLB, were tougher standards than many other states. Currently students are REQUIRED to take the NWEA test three times in a school year and the NECAP test once each school year. Teachers spend weeks teaching what is going to be on these tests instead of teaching a broader range of the curriculum. These are the FACTS. Call the schools yourself and ask them what the schedule is for these tests.

"Primary education is taught in a classroom environment." So you are saying that the 4th and 6th grade teachers at Martel Elementary who take their students out to do an experiment in the best way to protect an egg falling to the ground at different levels is not teaching "outside the classroom". Are you saying that the 3rd grade teacher that takes her class outside to see if they can pick out different types of leaves are not teaching "outside the classroom". Are you saying that the physical education teacher who is taking students outside to learn a particular sport is not teaching "outside the classroom". It takes more to be a teacher then standing in a classroom lecturing at students to make a good teacher.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“Teachers spend weeks

“Teachers spend weeks teaching what is going to be on these tests instead of teaching a broader range of the curriculum.”

Perhaps we should as why?

Assuming the content of the test is appropriate for the grade level for which it is administered, shouldn’t the test be a natural measure of the material teachers need to present anyhow?

If the above claim it true, then something is fundamentally wrong with the instruction plan. It may not be the mere fact of having to test, but rather the school is not teaching up to the standards of what material is tested.


Teaching to proficiency

The difference between teaching to the NCLB tests and teaching to proficiency is in a sort of simplistic way the difference between someone explaining to you how to ride a bicycle and then you taking a test that goes something like this: The part of the bicycle you hold on to is a) pedal b) spoke c) handlebar d) none of the above. Teaching to proficiency would require that you actually get on the bike and ride it without falling off. The education most of us received years ago required at least some proficiency . Too much of what passes for education today requires only exposure. It is not the same. It is not tested the same way. What happened is that the curriculum became expanded but the school day and school year did not. Proficiency requires in depth learning and takes more time. That is why the charter schools and private schools that teach to proficiency generally require a longer day and a longer year. It is also the only way to learn STEM subjects meaningfully. I supported the Maine Learning Results and feel that the NCLB testing forced schools to dumb down their teaching.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I appears to most people that

I appears to most people that if you teach proficiency, then improvement in test scores will follow.

Perhaps the appearance of teaching the test means the teacher is unable to teach proficiency.

In my opinion, educators don’t like testing because it is a negative reflection on oneself.

After all, how can a teacher be measured if there are no instruments of measurement?

Anyhow, I believe that educators are looking under the wrong rocks for solution to a waning educational system.


"I appears to most people

"I appears to most people that if you teach proficiency, then improvement in test scores will follow." Does someone need to go back to school to learn to be proficient in proofreading what you write?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Given your rebuttal solely

Given your rebuttal solely addresses my grammar rather than my premise, I’ll assume my premise is spot on.


Mark, your premise is off

Mark, your premise is off base too but I was extremely tired when I responded so now I will respond to your premise.

" if you teach proficiency, then improvement in test scores will follow." Regardless of how proficient a student is, if they are not a "test taker" then their scores will not rise. You seem to be making the assumption that the scores on the tests represents how good a teacher is. You do not seem to be taking into consideration that some students just can't do well on tests for multiple reasons. For some, the stress is so severe that they cannot focus even though they know the material very well. For some, there is a disconnect in the brain that makes them unable to connect between the question and the correct answer even though if you verbally ask them they can tell you the answer. For some, they can show you how to do something but cannot answer a written question. Some test takers have problems as well....some may be better with a multiple choice test while others may be better in an essay type test. A standardized test given to all students assumes that all students are equal to begin with when they are not. While I do not agree with a standardized test, I do agree that measurements are needed to ensure that students are proficient in their learning. With that said, I say government needs to be out of the classroom and let people trained in educating students decide how best to measure a student's proficiency.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Sounds like a litany of

Sounds like a litany of excuses to me.

1. Preparing kids for life includes teaching them to manage stress. When you consider cradle to grave stressors that a person may endure, stressing over a test is not their biggest worry in the bigger picture. Life is truly full of tests and measures, so the sooner kids get used to it, but better they will be prepared for life. I never seen a kid literally die from taking a test, have you? There is good reason why we say what does not kill you makes you stronger.

2. I would consider myself an individual that did not take tests well, yet I never collapsed in failure taking a test. The proper unit of measure for me as an individual should be that I improve year over year. That would be a measure of success for the school system.

3. The premise behind testing should not be to measure equality, but progress. Like measuring the height of a growing child, you must first start with a baseline, and then measure progress.

In closing, I still disagree with the concept of self-measure. That is, allowing schools to set the units on the yardstick in which they use to measure themselves. Human nature being fallible opens self-measure to all kinds of abuses.


So you are saying we

So you are saying we shouldn't let our kids be kids...we should make them manage stress at the age of 5, 6, 7, or 8. And I HAVE actually seen a kid have an anxiety attack so severe it made him sick over taking these tests. As far as collapsing from failure of a test....you are forgetting that teachers are being assessed on how good they are based on these test results. We should punish what may be good teachers for the failure of a student on a test? Your equality argument contradicts your prior comments....you cannot have it both ways. And where in any of my comments did I say let the schools set the measurement of proficiency....I believe I said let people who know what they are doing set the measurements not the government. No where in any of my arguments did I say we did not need a way to measure proficiency....I said standardized tests are not the way to accurately measure the proficiency of all students. And since our illustrious governor has decided to grade schools based on results I would think it would be best to have ACCURATE results.

Sorry it took me so long to respond...however, I had to work today and didn't have time to until now.....have a great night.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, we absolutely should

Yes, we absolutely should expose kids to stress and teach them to manage it. More so for the older kids they get (i.e. 7-8 th grade). The stress of test taking is peanuts to the stress kids of similar age experienced during the 1800's.

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

All students are not stressed

You seem to believe that all 7th and 8th graders or High School students take these required tests seriously and get "stressed" sorry not true. Some do get stressed and some could care less about a test that does not impact their grade and there is a group in the middle that care some . So 1/3 trying their very best ,1/3 half trying but not their very best and 1/3 who could care less about the test-- and somehow these scores show the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what these students know and can do and can not do. REALLY?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Shouldn’t test scores

Shouldn’t test scores reflect your 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 assertion?
If you don’t measure, you are blind.

Kind of like making the claim x% of Americans are overweight, but saying it makes no sense to weigh anyone.

Does make sense – REALLY?

If you don't test students, the best you can say about education quality is "I don't know."


Testing ALL students is not

Testing ALL students is not an accurate way to measure a student's proficiency in a subject. While some students are able to do well on tests, there are many who do not but are just as proficient as those who do. The solution the the problem with our education system needs to include ways for students to prove their proficiency when they are not test takers. A hands on learner may not do well on a test but ask that child to show you how to do something and they excel. A child who can give you the answers when asked but cannot do so on a written test is just as proficient. The stress put on a child regarding these tests also affects how they do. It is NOT the educators looking under the wrong rocks, it is the government thinking they know best when they have proven time and time again that they are NOT proficient in teaching our children.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Just because the unit of

Just because the unit of measure is not perfect, does not mean we don’t measure. If 100% of the student body fail, even in an imperfect form of measure, it does mean something.

Moreover, practicing what we don’t do well, like test taking, builds proficiency in what we don’t do well.

Adult life is full of tests and measures. Teaching our kids to do their best at challenging and stressful tasks is preparing them for the future; protecting them from the challenge and stress is not.

 's picture

I hope I'm wrong...

I just don't see how Lewiston is ready for this. These kids are not prepared for it. The focus has been so laser beam narrow to make sure these kids pass testing, I just don't see how you slam on the brakes and veer off into this... without leaving a trail of unprepared kids behind.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Let me get this straight.

Let me get this straight.

Let’s say adding and subtracting fractions is requisite learning for a fifth grader.

Moreover, said requisite is tested annually for all fifth graders.

Your argument is that teaching requisite material is narrowly focusing on making sure kids pass testing?

As I see it, if a fifth grader fails to perform well on a test evaluating knowledge of fifth grade fractions speaks volumes of what the kid learned during the education year.

What is your alternative – no measure of progress at all?

Dana Coffin's picture

Equal outcomes?

"The Common Core standards are the only way to achieve equal outcomes for all students." Wow. My head spins. We should try to achieve the greatest learning possible for each individual student. But some will be valedictorians and some will finish last in their class. The only way to to 'achieve equal outcomes for all students' is to teach them all exactly nothing. As soon as you try to teach them something (e.g. the alphabet, or the numbers one, two, and three), some will have learned it better than others. The more closely we focus on achieving equal results, instead of optimal results, the more pressure there will be to neglect the highest performing students, and only spend our energy trying to get the worst performing students up to the most lenient definition of proficiency. We have to start with the right goals.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

"The Common Core standards

"The Common Core standards are the only way to achieve equal outcomes for all students."

Given that human intelligence is not equal, the only way to achieve equal outcome is to dumb everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Is that what we want as a nation?


While listening to lawmakers

While listening to lawmakers and governors I have come to the conclusion that government should provide funding for education but should stay out of the day to day running of our schools. Let people trained in education make the rules and decisions. Stop mandating tests and let the teachers actually teach the children. I am not saying that local governments should have control. I am saying that all government needs to get out of our schools. Most of the people screaming about our education system have no clue about what our students need. They want to base their decisions on test scores regardless of the fact that some students have a different way of learning things. The current system is so rigid that a student who learns by hands on has no chance of proving that he/she knows the material because it is all based on test scores. Let educators do what they know best and let them decide if the child is learning based on how they know the child.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

How do you measure that an

How do you measure that an autonomously operating school system is coming close to providing the right level of education if you don’t measure it?


I did not say you couldn't

I did not say you couldn't measure it. I said you have to find different ways then just a test to measure results. Let me try an example....you take your car to a mechanic for repairs but you want to give that mechanic a test to see if he is proficient in repairing your car and he fails that written test. Now does this mean he is not proficient in auto repair...probably not. Now take this same mechanic and ask him to show you what needs to be done to your car and he not only can show you but can discuss what is wrong. There are different ways to measure proficiency without using just the written test.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Another way to look at your

Another way to look at your example is to ask yourself if an employer is going to take the time to see how each employee best demonstrates their proficiency? I think not. The employee gets with the program or goes packing.

Life does not cradle you. Think of evolution – only the strongest prosper are best suited to survive.

Peter Jokinen's picture

Evolution doesn't give a

Evolution doesn't give a rodent's rump about individuals. It never has. Such "social Darwinism" excuses are merely an attempt at justification for rule by the most brutal and selfish.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Be careful what you say, I

Be careful what you say, I hear that rodents out number humans in New York City.

Anyhow, life is brutal even though you may not be willing to reconcile that fact. As an American, we all have been sheltered from the most abhorrent brutalities of humanity but that does not mean it is nonexistent.

That said, what did I say that is not true about employers are not being in the business of finding how each employee best demonstrates proficiency?

The fact is there is one unit of measure applied to all regardless of our individual skill sets. We must meet minimum standards or move on. That is a topic well suited for exposing through public education.


P.S. Outcomes are never equal, yet only outcomes matter.


"The Common Core standards

"The Common Core standards are the only way to achieve equal outcomes for all students."

Given that human intelligence is not equal, (your words in an earlier post)

P.S. Outcomes are never equal, yet only outcomes matter. (your words in the above post)

So can you tell me which you want...equal outcomes for all students given that you said human intelligence is not equal and that outcomes are never equal how can we achieve equal outcomes. Did you confuse yourself?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps you are confused

Perhaps you are confused because you did not notice the first sentence is in quotes (i.e. someone else's comment).

I said: Not all outcomes are equal.

Only outcomes matter, not vacant words, not speculation. Moreover, outcomes do not have to be perfect. Achieving 80% of a goal is better than achieving 0% of a goal ... and so on.

Now back to the topic at hand. Expecting equal outcomes from a student body is unrealistic.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Life is full of tests. I have

Life is full of tests. I have to take a yearly examine to maintain a license in my profession. Testing is part of life. Yes, some individuals test better than others, but that does not mean the state has to evaluate non-test takers differently. Yes, if an individual that cannot master test taking doesn't cut the mustard even if they are "proficient" at doing the tasks, as in your example. Yet one may argue that test taking is a requisite to being proficient in such a career.

I said before, being tested and measured is part of operating in the adult, unsheltered world. Let's get the kids prepared.

PETER GEIGER's picture

Common Core

It has been 30 years since a blue ribbon panel issued a report declaring that the U.S. is a "nation at risk". Our education system was not keeping up with the needs of employers and we were not properly preparing our children for careers, college and citizenship as we headed toward the 21st century.

This led to the creation of the Maine Learning Results Task Force put together by the State Board of Education, a panel I chaired at the time it became law. Those wishing to elimnate standards, want to return to "local control". And what is that?? Before MLR and Common Core, it was possible to get a diploma in one district that required 1 math course in 4 years. Every district had its own deal for students. At the time, the quality of a diploma was directly related to your zip code. Sorry, that is a crime for any student not fully challenged academically.

Post MLR and Common Core, we have a far better idea of the skills a student will get during his or her public education. We have aligned what we know we need at high school graduation with the journey through all grades. The Common Core is not something from the evil Feds but the result of many states pooling their best thinking for the benefit of all students - all students.

The fact is the world is changing and it requires rigor and depth of knowledge. We must have skills that allow all of us to think and work creatively. I am not a fan of NCLB. It was well intended and Congress realizes that this was misguided.

It is easier to look at education through a narrow lens but it is a very complicated and requires all of us (the community) to give the best for all of our children. Our future depends upon it.

I wouldn't get within 10 feel of any petition that undoes the hard work of educators and community members. We can't afford to go back!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The best that public

The best that public education can provide is to expose all students to basic concepts. Parents and students must personally invest in education in order to accelerate beyond statutory education basics; that action is not the public’s responsibility.

Jim Cyr's picture

Mr. Geiger, We can't afford

to go back to Federal control. We must hold the feet of our elected officials, at all levels, to the principals of the Constitution. And a Federal program is certainly not one of those principals !! If they want to teach "EBONICS" in the Oakland,Calif school system, that is their prerogative. Maine has their own.

 's picture

Half the Story

You say: "One of several flaws of No Child Left Behind was that it allowed states to set their own educational standards."

That is 180 degrees off the mark. While it is true that NCLB allowed states to set their own standards, it dd not distinguish between states with higher standards from those with lower standards. States like Maine that had higher standards have been forced to reduce standards to get in line with other states who had lower standards. Achievement of standards should have been measured on a weighted scale that took the state's standards into account, but did not.

There are so many things that impact a school's, a district's and a state's ability to educate its students. Those factors differ from school to school within a district, from district to district, from state region to region and most definitely from state to state. Government is convinced that "grading" is the way to measure an educational entities effectiveness. While that may be true in the simplest terms, there is only one thing that truly shows how well the schools are doing; whether college bound kids get into the colleges they want to, whether they need to take remedial courses to be with their peers or not and how well they do with college; and how well students going directly into the work force do in terms of getting a job, doing that job, and keeping it.

Proficiency based education is, in my mind, a worthy idea. However, Common Core is not the way to achieve it. Instead of adding bad national law on top of bad law (on top of bad law), we need to reduce the nationalization of education policy, allow states to set their own standards, reduce the amount of money spent on constantly changing curricula and policy implementation and get out of the school's way and let them do their work.

There seems to be a bias against education in this country. That puts educators on the defensive and forces them to spend stupid amounts of resources trying to placate a populace that seems never satisfied with what they do. These are, for the most part, highly educated, caring people doing the best they can under near impossible circumstances. They are to be applauded not treated to yet another political mess. If we as a society spent some time trying to understand what really goes on in our schools, got over the jealousy of teachers and their summers off, and really thought about it for a minute, we might give public education more credit for the job they are doing. That might result in more support. Common Core is not the solution. Support, understanding and respect for our schools is. Take laws away, it'll make education better and far more cost effective (less expensive).

Common Core is more bad educational policy (that receives substantial funding from the Gates Foundation; Bill Gates will probably make another $ billion with it's implementation). I urge anyone offered a petition to sign it.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Hmm, I’m curious. When a

Hmm, I’m curious. When a child goes off to college, how does the college know whether an incoming student requires remedial course work or not?

Testing I presume?

Now let’s say this testing is applied one year prior to college admittance. Would that give the student some time to prepare before going off to college? Most people would say yes.

Now let’s say this testing is applied two years prior to college admittance, then it sounds reasonable that a student has two additional years to prepare before going off to college.

Now let’s extrapolate this reasoning to testing in order to exit every primary grade level. One could then reasonably assume that by the time a student reaches the age for college admittance, it is likely the student will need zero remedial course work.

Moreover, those students who are not college bound, while they may not have stellar grades, will be better off overall for meeting a base level of proficiency to exit each primary grade level.

Again, what is wrong with testing to minimal national standards?

 's picture

At least here in Auburn, the

At least here in Auburn, the testing you are describing, and I alluded to, is called Advanced Placement Testing. It is offered, through a grant to virtually any senior who wants to take it, and many juniors.

I am not saying testing is wrong in general terms, what I am saying is that national standards are not the way, for the same reason NCLB failed here in Maine. The way we should be judging a school's performance should be based on the product our schools output in terms of the colleges accepting them and the employers that hire them (though to a much lesser degree, because employers have a tendency to be very specific in their requirements). NCLB ultimately served one purpose; it made the testing companies wealthy. (Yes, I am a bit cynical.) Testing for the sake of testing, which sounds at least to me like what you are proposing, is both wasteful and has proven to result in outcomes based education. If we apply proficiency based grading, the "testing" is done on a much more frequent, much less formal, and far more indicative way. And you know what,we won't need to pay a testing company.

Proficiency based education is a potentially great plan, Common Core is the wrong way to implement it (as is LD1422).

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“The way we should be judging

“The way we should be judging a school's performance should be based on
the product our schools output in terms of the colleges accepting them...”

Again, how does a college determine whether nor not to accept an individual?

If the GPA only meets local standards, how does a college measure who is accepted or not?

Please answer!

 's picture

Regardless of how a college

Regardless of how a college chooses to judge a potential student, it is not something dictated by a national test, and here is the key part, developed under the auspices of the Federal Government. And there are many things that are looked at, some involve SATs or ACTs; some colleges don't even look at that.

I am not really sure what the point you are trying to make is. For my part, I am a cynic; I don't believe any government does much well, read: almost nothing, especially the Federal Government. We have had national standards for years, and that has gotten us exactly where we are. From my perspective, we can do better, but not by piling bad gov't policy on top of other bad gov't policy. And, that is what Common Core is and does. We need a clean slate. We need to eliminate Common Core, NCLB and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1970, its underpinnings. BTW, ESEA made expressly forbade a national curriculum; it is not too far a stretch to image that also means national testing, because, without a national curriculum, how can you test against it.

I am not saying don't test. I am saying local teachers are much better prepared to assess and address the needs of the individual student than some politician in Washington, who likely went to a prestigious private school and know nothing of public schools but the stats fed to them by someone with an agenda.

Don't worry about the colleges, they will find the best students regardless of the lack of national test results. How else can they produce well paid alum to support there massive endowments?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

My point is that a majority

My point is that a majority of colleges use national tests scores to evaluate students, you cannot hide from that fact.

“We have had national standards for years, and that has gotten us exactly where we are.”

What are your facts? Or is has testing merely exposed gaps that always existed in primary education?

How can testing produce poor results, especially when other nations score better on equivalent tests? What is so unique about America, such that they get lower test scores than competing nations?

“Don't worry about the colleges, they will find the best students regardless
of the lack of national test results. How else can they produce well paid
alum to support there massive endowments?”

Your cause/effect relationships astound me. Take the above assertion for example.

Colleges need money, so they’ll find the best students. If the premise is to get money, what does finding the best students have to do with it. All you need is students who can pay regardless of their skills.

 's picture

I have no idea what you are

I have no idea what you are in favor of or against.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Given that I say there is a

Given that I say there is a need to measure progress thought the use of examines, and I said the measure must be standardize for all schools, and that colleges use national testing for admittance already, I must be asserting there is nothing heinous about national testing standards.

National testing is nothing to fear, it is merely a measure. Allowing schools to establish their own benchmark is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Just like someone who argued that Maine scored well until national testing. Their conclusion was national testing messed things up. My conclusion is that Maine’s test sucked wind and did not test at the appropriate knowledge level.

 's picture

So... Are you for better


Are you for better education for our kids and country, or are you for national standards. I am not saying they are mutually exclusive, but I would, again, point out that we have had national standards for years, like 40 years. It hasn't worked. The local standards that have been alluded to here, were set by the Baldacci administration (I think) and they set the bar higher than the national standard. Our kids, in the beginning of the new standards, were performing poorly against them, but just as they started making progress, NCLB came along. When our kids performance was measured against our own State standards (again, higher than the national average) we were viewed as failing and that had consequences. So, Maine tried to opt out of NCLB and was turned down. The State Department of Education faced a choice... bring our standards down to national standards and appear to be successful or leave them where they were and be viewed as failing, loosing millions in Federal education funds. In the end, we lowered the standards.

That is why national standards are bad; not because standards are bad, but because, local is almost always better and national is almost always worse, in pretty much all things.

Common Core is different from other national education law in that it in not a re-authorization of ESEA, but something on top of it; law on top of NCLB. But, with a threat... if you don't adopt it, you lose federal education monies. And, enough of the money behind it is from the Gates Foundation, that even educators and policy influencers are uncomfortable.

Mark, you obviously have passion about this. But, you don't seem to be paying attention to the facts. We can argue big government v smaller government all day, but that doesn't seem to be be your focal point. I have argued in favor of free economy, that sailed by, too. I am left to believe that your issue is either with public education in general, which is, in my opinion wrong headed and intellectually lazy, or just with whatever I say. If that is the case, fine, but this is end of my participation. I am not shooting from the cuff; I have invested time and effort in understanding the realities and have developed an opinion from facts. I am open to discussion and if I have misunderstood something, I am willing to reconsider my point; so far you have given me nothing to work with.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“Are you for better education

“Are you for better education for our kids and country, or are you for national standards.”
You are in fact implying these conditions are mutually exclusive, they are not.
You are stating contradictions that make it difficult to trust in that you know what you are talking about.
“The local standards that have been alluded to here, were set by the Baldacci administration (I think) and they set the bar higher than the national standard.”
1. If the Baldacci administration standards are tougher than NCLB, then why should students perform worse against the lesser standard. Either NCLB standards are a subset of more stringent standards, or they are different. If the NCLB standards are different, then what do you base your assertion on that they are lesser? If you know what you are talking about, then you should be able to tell us – are the NCLB a lesser subset or different?
2. “That is why national standards are bad; not because standards are bad, but because, local is almost always better and national is almost always worse, in pretty much all things.” Local standards is like notching your own yard stick – anatomical parts appear to measure larger than they actually are – don’t take this literally, just figuratively. That is, if I set my own benchmarks, I’ll tend to meet them more often than not. You’ll remain blind to whether the standards better or worse than other states. It is no wonder way Maine tested better against its own self-imposed benchmark.
3. “lose federal education monies.” You do have a choice here. This is what you get when any states get in bed with the federal government. Same thing happened with funds; same thing will happen with Obamacare. Don’t take the federal dollars; that is the answer.
4. “be paying attention to the facts.” The problem is that I don’t buy most of what you call facts. You have provided zero critical data showing that NCLB is a lesser standard compared to the Baldacci standard other than saying the words. Moreover, your claim that student tested worse on the lesser standards. Again, students should score better if the NCLB test is a lesser subset of previous standards. It is hard to buy what you are dishing out. For example, Maine says all students must run a 5-minute mile. NCLB says students need to run a 7-minute mile. Now you say students score worse in the 7-minute mile – WHAT???

 's picture

Here are some more facts you

Here are some more facts you can choose not to believe: http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/a-brief-audit-of-bill-gates-co...

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Chuck, Chuck,

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck...

Neither of those URLs address question 1. above, or any of those question. Nothing you have provided supports your claim that the Baldacci administration standards are tougher than NCLB standards.

Where is the BEEF!

I'm trying to keep my questions direct, but you keep providing unrelated answers. Okay, let's narrow this down to one and only one question.

Show proof that the Baldacci administration standards are tougher than NCLB standards. I'm beginning to think you have no proof to back up your assertion here Chuck.


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