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Whiff of wisdom on new common standards

The D-Ed Reckoning blog, the work of two smart people who call themselves KDeRosa and Catherine Johnson, had as its top-of-the-blog pull quote recently this endorsement by me: "Doesn't put me to sleep." That's true, but I would have mentioned the blog even if it didn't use my name because of a flurry of posts by KDeRosa that are remarkable in their depth and clarity.

One explores the difference between induction and constructivism. I actually understood it, it was that well-written. But it will take me too long to explain it to you, so go read it yourself. What I want to quote is KdeRosa’s quick first take on the new common standards that 41 states have signed up for, and are the talk of the policy people who eventually decide what our schools are going to teach.

I have had my doubts about the new standards, but I have not read them very carefully. KDeRosa has. His take:

Here they go. Ta Da. I remain unimpressed. Frankly, I don't see how these standards are going to be the impetus to improve any aspect of education.

As a lawyer, I occasionally draft contracts and, let me tell you, you have to use much more precise language than this to actually get someone to reliably do what you want (and are paying) them to do. I'd bet that all fifty states could adopt these standards, not change a single thing they are doing, and claim compliance.

Some of these standards are incredibly silly. Take for example this one under print concepts for kindergarten (p. 16):

"Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print. ... Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page-by-page."

There is more, but you get the idea. My view is that the common standards, even if they were written in a lawyerly way by KDeRosa personally, would change what schools are teaching very little until the state produced what they have promised will be common tests to see whether the standards have been learned.

That's going to take another five years, at least, I am told. That is about enough time for me to write something about induction vs. constructivism that anyone would want to read.

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By Jay Mathews  | August 10, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  D-Ed Reckoning blog, difference between induction and constructivism, the loose language of the new common standards  
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