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Montgomery County is paving the way for new school standards

Ohanian Comment: So now watch a teacher play dumb and bow low over the new standards. First Gates funded the Common Core. Now we get the lessons to deliver the Common Core. This is moneybags version of incest.

NOTE: Pearson is partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop curriculum to align with the Common Core Standards. Here's part of a Press release from Gates, April 27, 2011:

SEATTLE--The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a suite of investments, totaling more than $20 million, focused on identifying and expanding promising cutting-edge learning resources that support teachers and students and bring innovative new instructional approaches into America's classrooms. These investments support the development of game-based learning applications; math, English language arts and science curricula built in to digital formats; learning through social networking platforms; and embedded assessments through a real-time and engaging environment of experiences and journeys. All these promising resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which are college- and career-ready standards being implemented in more than 40 states.

The Pearson Foundation, one of the major partners in this work, today is also announcing the development of its complete digital curriculum to support the standards. The foundation is pleased to work with Pearson Foundation by providing research and $3 million in funding to help make these tools widely available. In addition to the Pearson Foundation, the foundation is also partnering with Educurious Partners, Florida Virtual School, Institute of Play, Reasoning Mind, Quest Atlantis, Digital Youth Network and EDUCAUSE to develop and promote new applications for learning and assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

"Teachers are telling us what they want, and we are listening," said Vicki L. Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We believe these exciting world-class tools have the potential to fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom, and ultimately, how education works in America."

A significant part of these investments announced today include supporting work to build a complete system of digital courses aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Pearson, the leading learning company, is developing 24 online math and English language arts courses to help teachers and principals implement the standards. These courses will be delivered through a combination of technologies, including video, interactive software, games, social media, and print. Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support the development of this robust system of courses, including four-- two in math and two in English language arts--to be available at no cost on an open platform for schools.. . .

What Bill Gates wants, Bill Gates gets, and you have to look far and wide to find

a) a reporter who mentions this

b) a teacher who resists this

Vicki L. Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says "Teachers are telling us what they want, and we are listening." The first-grade teacher described below seems to be think things are just fine.

The Press Release from the Pearson Foundation, April 27, 2011, offers a bit more detail:

. . ."The development of the Common Core Standards has set a high bar for public education in America," said Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino. "With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pearson Foundation, we'll aim high to devise courses that will engage teachers and students and try to help a new generation compete in a demanding world economy."

Complementing the instructional system, additional resources may also be developed, including those from third-party curriculum providers whose solutions offer the greatest potential for student success. The courses will be made available in 2013, before the Common Core Standards are implemented. Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support four courses to be offered as free, open educational resources, with the intent of widening access and spurring innovation around the Common Core.

Pearson, the nation's leading education technology company, will offer these courses to school districts, complete with new services for in-person professional development for teacher transition to the Common Core and next-generation assessment. The Pearson Foundation will also work with other partners to explore opportunities for additional commercial development and distribution.

Judy Codding, former President and CEO of America's Choice, is leading the course development effort. Phil Daro, Chairperson of the Common Core Mathematics College and Career Readiness Standards Work Group, and Sally Hampton, Chairperson of the Common Core Reading/English Language Arts College and Career Readiness Standards Work Group, will oversee the course design and development teams. Susan Sclafani, former counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, will play a major role in coordinating this initiative. Educators and researchers from leading universities will also have an active role in designing and developing these courses. . . .

I'm sorry to be so mean-spirited here, but I do wonder: Is this why professors of education are so quiet about all this? Are they hoping to get on the curriculum writing teams?

Sally Hampton: currently serves as a Senior Fellow in the National College Faculty of America's Choice, Inc. Prior to joining the staff at the National Center on Education and the Economy, Sally was a senior scholar with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In her other roles she has served as the Director for Language Arts, Deputy Director for Research and Development for the National Center on Education and the Economy. She has also served as the Coordinator of Standards and Applied Learning with the Fort Worth Independent School District.

Hampton has written a number of books. For me, these stand out. They are all published by IRA, with these claims attached:

  • The International Reading Association is the world's premier organization of literacy professionals. Our titles promote reading by providing professional development to continuously advance the quality of literacy instruction and research.

  • Research-based, classroom-tested, and peer-reviewed, IRA titles are among the highest quality tools that help literacy professionals do their jobs better.

  • Developed as part of the influential New Standards project, Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing gives you everything you need to design and improve your writing instruction.

  • I admit that such claims give me violent feelings.

    Assessment for Learning: Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing, 5th Grade. New Standards, 2004. (Hampton, Murphy, and Lowry)

    Assessment for Learning: Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing, 4th Grade. New Standards, 2004. (Hampton, Murphy, and Lowry)

    Assessment for Learning: Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing, 3rd Grade. New Standards, 2004. (Hampton, Murphy, and Lowry)

    Assessment for Learning: Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing, 2nd Grade. New Standards, 2004. (Hampton, Murphy, and Lowry)

    Assessment for Learning: Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing, 1st Grade. New Standards, 2004. (Hampton, Murphy, and Lowry)

    Assessment for Learning: Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing, Kindergarten. New Standards, 2004. (Hampton, Murphy, and Lowry)

    Susan Sclafani
    joined the Pearson Foundation in January 2011 as vice president of programs. Just prior to that, she served as director of state services at the National Center on Education and the Economy. Before that, she was with Chartwell Education Group, an international consulting group. She also served as assistant secretary of education for vocational and adult education from 2003 to 2005 in the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Earlier, Dr. Sclafani served as counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. . . .

    Prior to serving at ED, Dr. Sclafani was chief academic officer of the Houston Independent School District in Texas, one of the nation's largest urban school districts. In that capacity, she focused on a number of areas, including technology, curriculum development, mathematics and science initiatives, and construction management. She also has extensive state education and business experience.

    At Chartwell Education Group, Dr. Sclafani has continued her international education work as well as her work in improving K--12 educational systems at local, state, and national levels. She has worked with professional organizations and foundations to meet their goals and has advised education organizations in both the public and the private sectors in the United States and abroad.

    By Michael Alison Chandler

    A year after political leaders embraced national standards created to prepare students for a competitive global economy, Mrs. McDaniel's first-grade classroom in Montgomery County offers an early glimpse at how this movement is transforming public education with streamlined math lessons and more challenging reading assignments.

    Maryland's largest school system is rolling out an updated curriculum, soon to be marketed across the country, that coheres with new standards for what students are expected to learn. It was on display the first week of school at Brookhaven Elementary School in Rockville.

    On Wednesday morning, math time in Brianne McDaniel's class began in a familiar way -- with students sitting cross-legged on a bumblebee carpet, counting backward and forward on a number chart projected above them.

    Throughout the year, the children will be spending a lot more time with the chart. They will write about numbers, play with numbers and get to know numbers well enough to understand what they are made of and how they relate to one another.

    Eventually, this will lead to addition and subtraction, and even a little bit of algebra. But there's no rush. "Numbers are the root of mathematics," McDaniel said. "This is something we are going to be focusing on all year."

    The approach is a major shift. In the past, teachers were "panicking," she said, to get through all the concepts they were expected to teach, including early lessons in geometry, measurement and statistics.

    By paring down the curriculum, U.S. schools are taking their cue from the less-is-more approach in such high-performing countries as Finland and South Korea.

    "This is not an evolution in standards. This is like a revolution," said William Schmidt, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.

    "It really calls for a different approach to teaching," he said, requiring teachers to have a deeper understanding of the material.

    Common standards

    Traditionally, what students are expected to know by the time they graduate has been decided by state and local school leaders. But last year, governors and state education chiefs proposed common standards to align with the expectations of employers and colleges. Forty-five states and the District have adopted them.

    In comparison with previous standards, which varied widely from state to state, the new set focuses more on core math concepts and puts more emphasis on writing and nonfiction.

    In the first week of English language arts in McDaniel's class, first-graders read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Two Bad Ants and learned about punctuation and making predictions in stories.

    McDaniel plans to introduce a new kind of book next week, one that explores a different topic on each page. Her goal is to introduce the idea that some books provide information rather than tell a story.

    Last year, she said, she taught nonfiction lessons only twice. The new curriculum calls for a far greater emphasis on nonfiction and more technical reading -- both in elementary and secondary school.

    The new elementary curriculum is in all kindergarten and first-grade classes and some second-grade classes. The plan is to add at least another grade per year. Changes are also underway in middle and high schools in math and English classes.

    The shift in English reflects "what you hear from college faculty all over the place: that kids are not equipped to read the material in their classrooms. They don't understand it and can't find information in it, and they don't persist in trying to read the tough stuff," said Michael Cohen, president of the District-based Achieve, which advocates national standards.

    McDaniel predicted that her children will enjoy the change. When they have free reading time, she said, they often dive for books about polar bears or bones and muscles, rather than sifting through her basket of storybooks.

    The Obama administration was not involved in drafting the standards but has cheered them as a catalyst for reform and a way to improve U.S. competitiveness. In the administration's Race to the Top program, Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave preference to states that adopted them.

    Virginia among holdouts

    Virginia is one of five holdouts. Officials maintain that the state's Standards of Learning are sufficiently challenging and that an overhaul would be unnecessary and expensive. The others are Nebraska, Montana, Alaska and Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry (R) has called national standards a threat to local education control. Minnesota has adopted only the English standards.

    Opponents say national standards could lead to a national curriculum, making schools more vulnerable to federal influence. But thousands of school systems are translating the broad standards into daily lessons in thousands of ways -- all by a 2013-14 deadline, when new standardized tests are expected to be in place.

    The District is adapting its tests to the new standards and changing math lessons. Prince George's County has adopted a new math book but is waiting to learn more about the coming tests before overhauling its curriculum.

    Montgomery officials said they wanted to think beyond tests as they revamp instruction. School officials started rethinking the curriculum in 2007, partly in response to complaints from parents and teachers that class time was too focused on math and reading.

    Those efforts accelerated last year when Maryland adopted the national standards and the school system won a $5 million federal grant. Montgomery schools also signed an unusual $2.25 million contract with education publisher Pearson. The extra money helped pay for more than two dozen employees to work full time on the curriculum.

    What the county calls "Curriculum 2.0" is being distributed not in the usual binders, but through a Web portal where teachers can download suggested lesson plans and upload their own to share.

    The curriculum designates more time for such subjects as science, art and social studies, and it weaves together lessons across disciplines, based on research that shows students learn more when they are making connections.

    'We are teaching to life'

    "Instead of teaching to the test, we are teaching to life," said Martin Creel, Montgomery's director of enriched and innovative programs.

    The curriculum also emphasizes thinking and creative skills that employers say are critical.

    In Wednesday's math lesson, the students learned about collaboration while they practiced counting. Groups of two played a counting game with a number chart and a die.

    The children quickly encountered the challenges of working together, such as when your partner takes "very long" to pick a number or spins the die across the room instead of gently tossing it.

    But at the end, when McDaniel asked how working together makes a difference, one answered: "It helps us count to a higher number."

    — Michael Alison Chandler with extensive Ohanian notes
    Washington Post





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