Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 22, 2014

Common Core denominator

Filed under: Alameda, School — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

So I’m going to wade a little into the Common Core pool here and am trying to stay focused on the “how is AUSD implementing Common Core” but seem to get caught up on the standards and what that means for the education of my children.  As I’ve mentioned before Common Core in general is very frustrating because there is a lot of conflicting information out there.  Some people think it’s the best thing since sliced bread others think it’s the worst thing ever.

My visceral reaction is generally a positive reaction to Common Core.  Not because I’m a fan of testing or using testing to measure teacher quality, but mainly because having standards for each grade level is a good thing.  Not that standards don’t exist in some form or another currently, but this is what exists and what will be implemented so I’m willing to take this journey.   I also read this piece by Diane Ravitch which was posted by School Board Member Mike McMahon as well which heavily critiques Common Core.  While I don’t disagree with some of her suggestions on how to make Common Core better (such as decoupling the standards from standardized testing) the piece read as mostly overly cynical about the prospects of Common Core because of who and which organizations (Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee) were supporting it and their historical positions on public education as opposed to a philosophical disagreement about what Common Core is attempting to do educationally.

But given her expertise on the subject of educating young people I can respect her criticisms of Common Core and keep those in the back of my mind when reading anything about Common Core.

I’ve discussed the Common Core a bit with my children’s teachers and it appears that some of that work in already being introduced — or has already been introduced — into their classrooms.  I’m not sure if this is all schools, just at our school, or just in these classrooms, but I know that it has been working for the most part, at least for my children.

Now, I’ll pause a bit and say that more likely than not my kids would be okay regardless of whatever type of education they get because I’m overly hyper and work with them at home.  But I can see how — for example — the different math strategies currently being used at Ruby Bridges could help all kids be successful in math because it approaches math using many strategies instead of just limiting it to one “right” way.

Anyway, I found this article really handy to understand, at least, what is happening at the lower grade level when it comes to math, and this chart was pretty awesome as well, this is only the Kindergarten chart:



The one that stuck out to me was the switch from not introducing base-10 counting to Kindergartners to introducing it earlier.  I never did understand why Kindergarten stopped counting at 30 because essentially once kids learn how to count successfully to 30 and understand the concept, counting to 100 should not be a  hardship.   And I don’t even mind the dropping the telling time of days of the week memorization in Kindergarten in favor the mastery of base-10 mathematics in Kindergarten.   Although there’s a super catchy song that both kids learned in Pre School on how to remember the days of the week which they still use to this day to know which day comes after which.  It’s literally just the days of the week sung to the tune of My Darling Clementine.

Anyway, I also did a quick run through of the one of the practice tests for the lower grade (okay, I did half of the third grade math test) and a lot of what is on the Common Core math test is what #1 daughter is currently learning concepts to solve.   It’s fun to take the test for about, oh all of two minutes or so.  It is an interesting way of testing from someone who lived through the standardized, number two pencil, bubble-in way of taking tests.   I would encourage people who have a few minutes to spare to go through it, I’m not sure if they grade you at the end of the test because I ran out of the allotted time that I had given myself to take it.



  1. Why stop at 100? How about going to a billion? Oh yeah that would take a long time. A teacher told any student who could write down the integers from one to one billion this semester would get an automatic “A!”

    Also so fun facts about the company Google.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 22, 2014 @ 7:50 am

  2. Here is thought experiment posted on Diane Ravtich’s blog. Can you predict which state has high-performing schools and which state has low-performing schools?

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 22, 2014 @ 8:01 am

  3. And on Common Core… NY state Governor calling for corrective action on Common Core implementation in his state.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 22, 2014 @ 8:05 am

  4. 3. I’ll bet you can ask any K-1 teacher which of their students are learning at what level, and without a test they can give you an accurate assessment. So the tests must be for accountability and to access efficacy of teaching, but one wonders how taking teaching time to test kids may undermine the goal of education. I agree with Cuomo that children that age don’t need to be tested. It’s not referred to, but I wonder what psychologists may have to say about down side of kids being steeped in a culture of testing right out of the starting block. It’s an atmosphere where they intuitively know they are being measured and compared, at age 5. Can we give them a couple years to get a foot hold before they are thrown into that environment? or maybe they need to get a Head Start on toughening up for competitive job market.

    Comment by MI — January 22, 2014 @ 10:56 am

  5. The state of California does not have standardized testing for K-1. This school year 2nd grader standardized testing was going to be eliminated. Each school district has their own set of formative assessments to gauge teaching and learning. Page 4 for K-1 AUSD results

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 22, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

  6. 5. “was going to be”… Let’s hope. K through 2 exemption is good news I did not know about. Thank you Mike.

    what also surprised me was Al Jazeera America piece about neglect by some home schooling parents due to lax or no regulation and over sight in various states. And California was flagged as having minimal regulation. I’ll have to ask home school friends, because all the ones I know in this town are diligent, but according to this piece which was pretty credible, the abuses in some states are scary. There is apparently a big religiously based lobby which has success shielding home schools from same standards and testing, 1st Amendment and all that.


    Comment by MI — January 22, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

  7. Actually testing for the old California standards have been stopped for most grade levels. In its place in 2014 spring, students across the State will be taking 15 question practice tests based on Common Core standards. Full implementation of Common Core testing is scheduled for 2015 spring.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 22, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

  8. Common Core or state standards, public education is a part of a system. Here is an clip from a running debate about Common Core,educational reform and poverty.

    In his selection of a quote, Graff focuses upon Ravitch’s writing, “Public education is not broken.”

    I agree. Public education is not “broken.”

    Public education is sagging under the increasingly stressful load of society’s expectation that schools (and teachers) be “The Solution” for almost all that could possibly negatively affect the children in their academic care. Public schools are responsible for transporting children to and from the school building; for feeding them two subsidized meals per day; for providing “wrap around” services such as mental health counseling; for meeting needs of specific subgroups, including special education students, homeless students, and students who are wards of the state; for providing extracurricular activities; for providing free tutoring; for providing free uniforms to those in need, and for tracking progress and modifying instruction for children experiencing an endless variety of extenuating circumstances (parental illness or death; prolonged student illness; behavior modification issues).

    And teachers still manage to teach, and students still manage to learn.

    Miracle of miracles.

    which leads me to my third point: Graff’s utter lack of experience with the public school classroom betrays itself in his faulty logic that poverty cannot be the central problem with public education since his “many white, middle-class, and relatively-privileged” students cannot “command” the “basic skills of reading, writing, and critical thinking” to their “potential.”

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 23, 2014 @ 8:27 am

  9. Telling time and learning days of the week are precisely the sort of things any parent can and should do at home to establish a rapport between with their kids for the purpose of classroom style learning to prepare them for school. Even “working parents” would be well served to read to their kids and sit and teach them to read, though it’s understandable how that doesn’t occur. We were lucky that the excellent pre-school our kids went to addressed learning letters and a ton of other stuff, but other than sounding out words while reading a book or two I don’t recall that we schooled our kids in reading to the point they entered kindergarten as readers!

    Having struggled with academia I wasn’t anxious to do it again as a parent and I was frankly ill equipped with higher level homework, but daily monitoring of homework is basic parenting. Maybe poverty isn’t the central problem for middle class kids who are illiterate, but it’s central to the over all problems we have with education in the USofA. Al Jazeera America had another segment called “Schools to Prison Pipeline” where they discuss the apparent phenomena of administrators relying too heavily on police authorities as default discipline and just as with adult incarceration for cocaine, the racial disparity for how kids are disciplined in heavily biased against low income minorities.


    Comment by MI — January 23, 2014 @ 9:45 am

  10. 8. Mike, that Answer Sheet article is killer. keep ’em coming.thanks

    Comment by MI — January 23, 2014 @ 9:54 am

  11. So the plot thickens for the implementation of Common Core in New York. Over the weekend, the New York’s state teacher union passed a resolution withdrawing support for implementation of Common Core in their state. The issues are different in California and the sample Common Core testing this Spring will be interesting.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 27, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

  12. And in California looks like LAUSD is having trouble getting to implement Common Core testing:,0,5974079.story

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 28, 2014 @ 7:23 am

  13. For the back story on why a growing number of liberals and conservatives are uneasy about Common Core;

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 28, 2014 @ 8:12 am

  14. Unfortunately, this continues to have parallels to implementation of Affordable care Act. And Duncan is a political hack.

    From the NPR piece: “Both sides also say Common Core represents an end-run around federal prohibition against a national curriculum”. WTF? I didn’t realize there was one. If that is fact, then C.C. does seem a little counter intuitive. Further:” And both argue that the new standards were not really state-driven. They say the Obama administration all but forced states into it by requiring adoption of the new standards in order to be eligible for more than $4 billion in federal “Race to the Top” grant money.” We all knew that, didn’t we?

    In the long run I don’t see anything wrong with national standards. It’s not about taking away states rights. enforcement is a whole other thing. but having standards? why not?

    Comment by MI — January 28, 2014 @ 8:58 am

  15. And yet another take on Common Core from a veteran teacher and textbook author. One takeaway for me was the following passage:

    I’ll start by affirming what I believe most thoughtful educators take for granted: The main aim of schooling is to model or explain reality better. As you read, don’t lose sight of that. The aim of schooling isn’t to teach math, science, language arts, and other school subjects better, but to expand our understanding of reality.

    For the rest of the article an why the author believes Common Core is not the answer….

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — January 31, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

  16. wow Mike. That is way too complex for sound bite policy, so even though there are minds like this guy out there, we get Arne Duncan as Secretary of Ed, a virtual palooka. And policy to go with him. It’s been hard not to let education take a lower to priority to things like foreign policy, the economy, and health care, but Obama’s education and environmental focus has been weak as hell and hugely disappointing considering how smart many of us thought he is and the expectation that went with that..

    I have to restrain myself from veering off in the anecdote to explain why this article is so, so exciting to me. It resonates deeply with lots of complicated stuff about parenting and helping steer kids through the education maze to come out the other end whole thinking individuals.

    The integrated “reality” based approach described in this article may or may not best be represented in Alameda by an entity like ACLC. I’m certain that many individual teachers in the man stream are good at this and might be better if they didn’t have to teach to the tests. In any case I’d love to see how we could infect the entire public education system instead of maintaining sort of quarantine of fiefdoms (Big Rooms) of rare air.

    Comment by MI — February 1, 2014 @ 11:16 am

  17. And beyond the curriculum implications of Common Core, there are issues/concerns with testing implementation. While California is using a different test provider than Pennsylvania, there are my unanswered questions about the ultimate costs associated with Common Core testing in California.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — February 10, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

  18. Yet another piece on the growing momentum questioning the role/purpose of standardized testing…

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — April 15, 2014 @ 8:04 am

  19. Tea party to resistance to Common Core is largely misguided, but this documentary critique of C.C. is well worth the 39 minutes.

    Comment by MI — April 15, 2014 @ 9:06 am

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