Obama’s core curriculum draws criticism

Dr George Noell. Photo by Poppie Mphuthing / Columbia Radio News
Dr George Noell. Photo by Poppie Mphuthing / Columbia Radio News

HOST INTRO: As debates continue across the country around the roll-out of the Obama administration’s Common Core curriculum, one issue is in the limelight in New York. Teacher performance and how it is measured using the newly designed standardized test scores. Poppie Mphuthing has more.
President Obama’s Common Core curriculum was designed to education standards and get kids across the country on a level playing field.

But the roll-out has been controversial because there are concerns that some it has been implemented too quickly and teachers and students can’t keep up.

New York’s Governor Cuomo was a supporter. But he’s now appointed a board of independent advisors to assess the curriculum after complaints from parents.

CUOMO: “I think the way they have implemented common core has failed utterly. There is massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all across the state.”

Part of the chaos is measuring teacher performance. Teachers got their backs up when more than 2 thirds of pupils writing newly designed tests last year, for the new curriculum tanked… and they were blamed.

New York’s largest teacher’s union, AFT, and others want the Curriculum Core roll-
out to be put on old for at least three years.

Dr. Howard Wainer is statistician professor at Wharton Business School. He says that teachers have every right to be upset, because scores alone don’t tell the whole picture about their performance.

WAINER: The catastrophe is that we have these numbers and people somehow reify them as somehow critically important, when in fact they are terrifyingly inaccurate. The causal implications being drawn from them are incorrect.

But Dr George Noell, a psychology professor at Louisiana State University disagrees. While he concedes that just using test scores doesn’t give a full picture, he says ignoring the data altogether is a mistake.

NOELL: Saying that because we don’t know everything, we can’t use what we do know, seems to me self-defeating.

Noell says it’s easy for some groups to simply forget the data, because it suits them to sweep problems under the carpet.

NOELL: If the data are right, there’s a group of children who are being miserved year after year after year on a very predictable repeating pattern.

Wharton Statistician Howard Wainer says that there are ways to avoid the pitfalls of just using test scores to measure teacher performance.

WAINER: The catastrophe is that we have these numbers and people somehow reify them as somehow critically important, when in fact they are terrifyingly inaccurate. The causal implications being drawn from them are incorrect.

New York’s education department is under pressure from all sides. But it is unlikely that the state will go back on rolling Common Core.

Poppie Mphuthing, Columbia Radio News.

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