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Education Politics

Is the New "Common Core SAT" Bill Gates' Doing? 273

Posted by timothy
from the secret-machinations dept.
theodp writes "'I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years,' wrote Bill Gates in a USA Today op-ed last month that challenged the "dangerous misconceptions" of those who oppose the initiative (pretty confident for a guy who conceded there wasn't much to show for his earlier $5B education reform effort!). 'The Gates Foundation helped fund this process,' acknowledged Gates in quite an understatement of his influence. Receiving $6.5M in Gates Grants was Student Achievement Partners, whose founder David Coleman was dubbed the 'Architect of the Common Core.' So it's not too surprising that at last week's SXSWedu, Coleman — now President and CEO of The College Board (no stranger to Gates money itself) — announced a dramatic overhaul of the SAT that includes a new emphasis on evidence-based reading and writing and evidence analysis, which the AJC's Maureen Downey calls 'reflective of the approach of the Common Core State Standards.'" (Read more, below.)
"And over at The Atlantic, Lindsey Tepe reports that the Common Core is driving the changes to the SAT. "Neither Coleman nor the national media," writes Tepe, "have really honed in on how the standards are driving the College Board-as well as the ACT-to change their product." In conjunction with the redesigned SAT, The College Board also announced it would exclusively team with Khan Academy (KA) to make comprehensive, best-in-class SAT prep materials open and free in an effort to level the playing field between those who can and can't afford test prep services. In a conversation with KA founder Sal Khan — aka Bill Gates' favorite teacher and a beneficiary of $10+ million in Gates Foundation grants (much earmarked for Common Core) — Coleman stressed that Khan Academy and CollegeBoard will be the only places in the world that students will be able to encounter free materials for the exam that are "focused on the core of the math and literacy that matters most." "There will be no other such partnerships", Coleman reiterated. Game, set, and match, Gates?"
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Is the New "Common Core SAT" Bill Gates' Doing?

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  • Litterisy is importint.
    • Re:Becuz (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @11:40AM (#46474307) Homepage Journal

      But, seriously, we've only solved the universal literacy problem over about the last 50-150 years(depending on when you consider it "solved"), and it's made a huge difference for how well society functions. You can hand almost any American a book about how to do a well-paying job, and they could actually try and tackle it if they wanted. That didn't used to be true, at all. You can count on someone being able to heed a warning label on a product. The US highway system is easily navigable with just reading skills.

      The difference between a literate and illiterate population is so huge that we can't even imagine trying to transition back. Most of our problems now hinge on how we go above and beyond basic literacy and math skills, not whether we do.

      • Re:Becuz (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:14PM (#46474657) Homepage Journal

        But, seriously, we've only solved the universal literacy problem over about the last 50-150 years(depending on when you consider it "solved"),

        Sadly, you are only correct if you are equating "the ability to read (anything)" as literacy. There are states where the functionally illiterate rate is staggering. The figures on the DOE sites are very misleading, since they consider the ability to read "basic prose" to indicate "literacy" - when in reality, the "deeper numbers" indicate "21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read.". The numbers are even worse if one expects an adult to read at what's considered an adult level - someplace decently over 50%.

        and it's made a huge difference for how well society functions.

        The true situation does indeed impact how well society (in this country) works. And we can see that ignorance, lack of education and lack of literacy driving some lunatic policies.

        • You're not wrong, but I think you're disagreeing with a different point than I was making.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Yeah, my brother "can read," but barely. He can indeed read road signs, so "basic" literacy is very, very valuable. But technical information, even in his own field, would glass over his eyes in 10 seconds. Anything important, like a letter from the DMV, he'll have to have somebody explain it to him, even though it is already dumbed down.

          He graduated high school with average grades, too.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @11:35AM (#46474265) Homepage Journal

    The problem isn't that they have ideas and they spend money on getting those ideas to work. It's that the Gates foundation uses their "leveraging" plans for charity on everything, including more political stuff like education. So they give large gifts with the caveat that both that money, and an even larger chunk of public money be spent on doing things the way the foundation envisions.

    This is great when it comes to eradicating diseases or building infrastructure, because once that's done, areas stay healthy and stable. When it's used on the already pretty-functional US education system, it turns into a "my way or the highway" situation and the plans being advocated by the Gates foundation aren't nearly as evidence based.

    It's problematic.

    • by Kingkaid (2751527)
      Because the current education system is working -so- well right now. Evidence based is good, but only if you have good evidence. The current teaching methods in the US are falling further and further behind other countries. Many teachers are teaching to the test, which is what the evidence has decided is "the best way to see how they are learning". So while a "my way or the highway" approach isn't ideal, tell me when the last time you heard a group of educators get together and make a decision that was pos
      • Yes, we fall further behind other first world countries, that's true, but we're ahead of where we were, (pretty) consistently, year-to-year. There's this imagined problem of the education system "going to shit" and requiring immediate and intensive treatment. To continue the medical analogy, we're more like an obese patient who is not currently suffering from any life-threatening conditions. The solution isn't (necessarily, that is. Evidence would help) cardiac surgery, but finding where we have the wors

    • It is more like,
      People like his ideas, They read 1/2 of the recommendation, then they propose it to the government who only gets 1/2 of that proposal, who then under pressure implements it using 1/2 of the proposal. This may go down a few levels only leaving the Title "Common Core" as remaining.

      Because there is this impression of the Failing Schools and we expect someone else to fix it.
      However there are a few issues with that.
      1. Many of the most successful countries with test results, have a school system

      • Well, yeah, politics and school administrations only makes things worse. If we could find a way to do without both, while still keeping universal education, no one would complain.

      • Many of the most successful countries with test results, have a school system where only the best continue on to more schooling the rest go to vocational schools.

        I am not sure what a "vocational school" is in a post-industrial environment. I am not even sure any more what "best" means in this context.

        • Vocational Schooling or we call them apprenticeships.
          In general training to do particular work that doesn't require a college degree to do such work.

          A lot of this stuff our college system as absorbed into its structure (Usually in a 2 year degree) but it really shouldn't be.
          Jobs such as:
          Electricians, Plumbers, Mechanics, Barbers, Truck Drivers, Welders... would quality.
          However other job professions which are covered in colleges could be done too. Like: Nursing, Day Care, even Programming, and other IT jobs.

          • Because a college education is needed for a basic quality of life

            No, it's not. I'm not going to deny that it can be difficult to find an employer who realizes that pieces of paper don't indicate that you know what you're doing, but it is, at least, possible. I'm one example of a person who found an employer willing to actually give me a chance and test my skills.

        • There is no post-industrial environment. Not here or anywhere else. All of our machinery doesn't magically fix itself or design newer versions. Pipe-dreams don't make for good social agendas. In fact, social agenda aren't good.
    • by gwstuff (2067112)

      > it turns into a "my way or the highway" situation

      Ah, I see, so THAT was the hidden message in the cover of the "Road Ahead" - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi... [wikimedia.org]

    • When it's used on the already pretty-functional US education system

      It is not and never was "pretty-functional"; it is and was abysmal, like every education system.

      • Right, so education never did anything for anyone.

        I mean, I'm not sure what you're comparing it to if "every education system" sucks. I hate to point out the obvious, but universal education was a transition point for society at large from some really terrible conditions. I'm sorry the real world is abysmal, but we don't live in a fictional universe where everyone is super-intelligent and knows everything.

        • Right, so education never did anything for anyone.

          Straw man.

          That the situation could be worse does not mean it is good. I am saying that it could be vastly improved, and that, at the moment, while it serves some purpose, it's still bad.

    • I actually disagree with you here, because the Gates Foundation does more measurement and changing based on measurement than any other educational group I know of. That is why he says 'there is nothing to show for $5billion effort,' because they tested the things they tried, and found they didn't offer real improvement. So they moved on to try something else.

      About the common core, I'm not entirely sure what the criticism is. If you read the summary, [wikipedia.org] it looks like an improvement in both math and English.
      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:38PM (#46474929)

        The focus is on making sure kids understand math, rather than being able to solve problems.

        If you "understand" math, but can't solve problems with it, then you don't understand math, or at least not anything useful about it.

        • But being able to follow a bunch of steps to solve a problem doesn't mean you understand it, so the focus *should* be to make kids understand it.

      • by JWW (79176)

        The problem I have with the math standards is that they are acting like kids can just naturally figure out things such as how to divide large numbers. And in some respects they can, but when kids figure it out for themselves they miss most of the simple methods and processes that can make solving the problem much much much much easier.

        Kids now are stumbling around how to divide 536 by 5 and sometimes coming up with the right answer. But instead of then being taught a quick an simple method, long division,

        • The quick way is to break out a calculator. Teach kids how and why the math works, stop making them solve repetitive problems that don't even test their understanding of the material, and then give them calculators or computers where necessary.

    • Would we all enjoy an announcement that the Koch Brothers will offer to fully-fund public education on the state level, but only if the state agrees to teach only the political, economic and scientific theory that the brothers approve (with violations being an instant termination)?

      Public Education should be just that, not a plaything of the 1%; not for ideological reasons nor for 30 pieces of silver to cover budget shortfalls.
  • by Corporate T00l (244210) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @11:44AM (#46474353) Journal

    Given the citation that an "earlier $5B education reform effort" didn't really do much, are we to believe that two small grants, $6.5M to David Coleman's company and $10.75M to Khan, somehow means that Gates single-handedly rammed the common core down everyone's throats against their will?

    That seems hardly likely. Bill Gates may support the common core, but the notion that it's somehow a conspiracy that he masterminded with his wealth seems farfetched. If you look at reporting on the common core like this recent NPR article (http://www.npr.org/2014/01/28/267488648/backlash-grows-against-common-core-education-standards [npr.org]), you'll see quite a complex list of entities for and against common core. The Chamber of Commerce is for it, Glenn Beck is against it. There's a lot more in this fight than the Gates Foundation's $17.25M.

    • Follow the story link to the Gates Foundation Common Core grants, or check out this post from Diane Ravitch [dianeravitch.net]: "The Gates Foundation spent nearly $200 million to pay for the writing, review, evaluation, dissemination, and promotion of the Common Core standards. It is difficult to find a D.C.-based education organization that has not received millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to promote the standards. Bill Gates believes in the Common Core standards...And he is not at all concerned that the standar

  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgwNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 13, 2014 @11:45AM (#46474359) Journal

    First, the current SAT rules are that each student can select which test scores to submit to colleges. Many kids take SAT prep courses and then take the SAT multiple times, submitting only the best result.

    Second, colleges seem to be reluctant to publish any sort of data on the correlation (or lack thereof) between SAT scores and college GPA or dropout rates. So how do we even know whether the SAT is a useful assessment tool?

    Disclaimer: I'm a college-application anarchist who thinks all admissions departments should be taken out and shot, and applicants selected using the time-honored Staircase Method. [joannejacobs.com]

    • But the SAT does. You might want to look in to that before you make that statement. I'm now fan of the SAT but they do publish information showing the correlation between SAT scores and the success rate at the college level.
      • by cellocgw (617879)

        Do they (SAT) discriminate between "prepped" and "unprepped" testees? I'm skeptical because that would require extensive self-reporting.

    • Teaching to the test isn't a bad thing as long as the tests themselves are actually well written. I've seen some of the standardized test questions today's high school students are expected to answer, not just in the SAT but in their graduation requirements, and they're just awful. Poorly worded questions with poorly worded answers.
  • by retroworks (652802) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @11:47AM (#46474385) Homepage Journal
    Part of the revamped SAT involves establishing Khan Academy SAT Prep courses. https://www.khanacademy.org/te... [khanacademy.org] The perception has been for years that test takers from wealthier families have key advantages, including taking the test multiple times and paying for special training. Gates has been a backer of Khan Academy already. I think it's a positive step if they do more to level the playing field.
  • Diane Ravitch [dianeravitch.net]: "The Gates Foundation spent nearly $200 million to pay for the writing, review, evaluation, dissemination, and promotion of the Common Core standards. It is difficult to find a D.C.-based education organization that has not received millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to promote the standards. Bill Gates believes in the Common Core standards...And he is not at all concerned that the standards were never field-tested, even though Microsoft would never launch a new product line withou

  • Common Core is a big thing in NY where I live right now, because the state just voted to suspend its implementation for 2 years. NY already has pretty high standards for high school graduation and, if I'm any indication as a product of it, the curriculum is pretty good too. That doesn't mean that all other states have the same standards, and it seems to me that Common Core was designed to bring all states up to a higher level. As an example, my previous job wanted me to move to Florida, so I played along an

    • by Max Threshold (540114) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:06PM (#46474595)

      "First off, getting stuck with a class of crappy students can cost you your job . . ."

      No, that's not how the evaluations would work. The improvement of individual students could be tracked and evaluated against the standard.

      "Once they receive tenure, they should no longer be subject to evaluation . . ."

      That should not be true of anyone.

      • "First off, getting stuck with a class of crappy students can cost you your job . . ."

        No, that's not how the evaluations would work. The improvement of individual students could be tracked and evaluated against the standard.

        "Once they receive tenure, they should no longer be subject to evaluation . . ."

        That should not be true of anyone.

        Is it really fair to judge a teacher on a test that doesn't mean anything to the students? Also, most states only have one of these evaluative tests a year, so you're not comparing students to their own scores, you're comparing them to the scores of the previous year's class. So the class of crappy students certainly could cost a teacher their job if their previous class was much better.

    • by rsborg (111459)

      One answer - Common Core + No Child Left Behind = ways to screw over schools, teachers and children.

      Remove the funding based on mandatory tests (i.e., NCLB) that have been proven to be gamed, and the ideas of Common Core might make sense to implement.

      If NCLB is a pit trap, Common Core for many schools becomes the punji stakes hiding in it.

  • The education system is failing because it is designed to educate a student that doesn't exist, the average student. Every child is different and every child needs different instruction at different times in their development. The education system needs to be completely thrown out. We should design a new system from the ground up that adapts to the needs of the student instead of the forcing the student to adapt to the needs of the system. I have no idea how to do that, but if I studied how children learn I
    • There are people who do study this very thing, but they're not well liked within even the education colleges because they come up with the same conclusion you did - the education system as-is isn't that great and requires radical change to be fixed. And money. Much, much more money to shrink classroom sizes and to provide proper materials for kids. Younger children learn best in groups of no more than a dozen. Older kids actually benefit from even smaller groups for some subjects (math), but larger grou
  • The Common Core is the one thing in modern politics that is capable of generating agreement between right-wing conspiracy nuts and left-wing conspiracy nuts: the Left hates it because they think it's an attempt to undermine teacher's union, and the Right hates it because they think the Feds are trying to undermine local control of schools. So everybody hates it.

    But seriously, have you actrually read the standardds [corestandards.org]. There's nothing especially objectionable in them, and there is a lot to like. Implementat
    • by Talderas (1212466)

      Common core standards are, in fact, lower than the standards that were required by many states. New York voted to suspend it for two years to keep stricter standards. Indiana has a bill sitting on the governor's desk to completely step away from common core to utilize tougher standards.

      A large reason common core has an allure is because of bad effects that came about from NCLB. It was causing a lot of schools to face sanction over kids not testing to standard (which is the state's standard) because they had

    • The thing that bugs me about this attempt at reform isn't so much what they have done, but what they HAVEN'T done. There's things to like in the new standards, for sure. The math standards seem pretty decent (without studying them closely I can't say for sure; I wonder if possibly we're going TOO easy on our kids, I'd like to assume our kids can be smart if we push them and make some basic level of calculus-type mathematics part of the standard). The english standards are a bit harder to follow because they

  • by korthof (717545) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:20PM (#46474727) Journal
    I have two aunts that make a total of about 15k a year working there asses off in retail as single mothers. Bother fathers passed away. They can not afford a laptop (family made sure they got em). A requirement of Cores is keyboarding for homework. They are expected to pay for everything in this program even if they cant afford it. This nation thinks everyone can afford a monthly payment, forced payment for phones, insurance, healthcare. and If you can't pay the $300 a month in "affordable" programs, you are fined beyond recovery. Yes we have to move forward, but this shit has to stop, we need to provide help if we are going to require instead of fining the poor.
  • Uhhh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_skywise (189793) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:22PM (#46474751)

    Coleman stressed that Khan Academy and CollegeBoard will be the only places in the world that students will be able to encounter free materials for the exam that are "focused on the core of the math and literacy that matters most."

    Does that throw up red flags for anybody else?

    Why are we supporting an educational policy where a private corp gets to not only dictate who gets "scholastically approved" but also controls the flow of information used to prepare for said approval?

  • Common Core is not perfect. Not much is. But the language used in this post was well and truly slanted. I suggest that, in the future, you avoid politicking in your posting, and instead be an objective reporter of facts. Words like "acknowledge" strongly imply an associated guilt. Likewise, the rest of the OP's slant.

  • There’s this one opponent to common core that made a presentation based entirely on quotes from people who originally contributed to and supported common core: "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF16la1IiGI”. Originally it seemed like a good idea, but the cirricula kept getting watered down so badly that students wouldn’t leave high school with enough education to get into college. There are those who like to suggest that common core is now only about indoctrinating students with {liberal

  • Better Common Core than allowing the fundamentalists and fringe groups to continue pushing crap like "Young Earth" ideologies as "just a theory" equivalent to evolution and the big bang.

    If it weren't for all the wingnuts and fools in Texas and elsewhere pushing that kind of crap, there wouldn't have been a rebellion against their bullshit through standardization like Common Core.

  • by demonbug (309515) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @02:32PM (#46476091) Journal

    There seem to be a lot of misconceptions and outright ignorance about Common Core here. Common Core is basically just a restructuring of when different subjects are introduced, and how much emphasis is placed on each area at each grade level. For example, in mathematics where previously you might have an algebra class one year, then a geometry class another year, then trigonometry another year, etc., this might get reorganized so that material from each of these courses is introduced at different times in what proponents claim is a more logical structure that achieves better results (and there does seem to be a lot of evidence to support it). So instead of Algebra in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th, you might get some parts of what was in the Algebra class in 6th grade, a little more in 7th, some more in 8th, while also being introduced to Geometry earlier and having that spread across multiple years. You end up in the same place (well, hopefully on average you end up a little more advanced by the end), but at any given point in their schooling students will be ahead of where they would have been under the past system in some areas, and behind in others - by design.

    However, this rearrangement of coursework opens a can of worms, which is where most of the fighting comes in. Because things are introduced at different stages and in a different order, an entirely new curriculum is required. It is left to the states to decide what curriculum to use, and there are a lot of choices - much of it produced by commercial entities, some of it good and some of it really, really bad. This isn't a function of Common Core, per se, but merely a function of lots of groups taking advantage of a major re-write to try to get their product included in what is selected at the state or local level.

    Likewise, since the order things are introduced changes, all of the standardized tests are no longer relevant - children might be learning some of what falls into "algebra" in the current system in the 5th grade, so a standardized assessment test would need to take this into account. Opponents latch onto this and complain that too much is expected of the students, because they are being tested on something "too advanced". Likewise, something that students previously learned in the 4th grade might not be introduced until the 6th - and again, opponents latch onto this because the standards have been "lowered". It's easy to cherry pick examples that go either way (which this comment section is rife with), because compared to what most of us experienced, it will feel "off".

    The vast majority of the arguments against Common Core aren't actually about Common Core, rather they are about some of the curricula that have been developed to meet Common Core's structure. Just like there can be a fight every time a new science textbook is chosen in Kansas (or anywhere else), everyone is arguing over what the curriculum should look like, and it is all happening at once. So, lots of people trying to get their own political slant into the new curriculum, which is the same problem as always - it's just happening all at once across pretty much every subject.

    Now, there are certainly objections or questions to ask regarding Common Core. For one, are the benefits of the rejiggering of subjects enough to outweigh the costs of introducing the system? What do you do about students who started with one system - can you transition them to the new standards effectively, or will we have several years worth of students with glaring holes in their education? And last (and probably the biggest question, and the one that has driven many one-time supporters to oppose common core), how do we ensure that the curriculum chosen by my school district/state/whatever is going to be effective and not just an amalgamation of commercial offerings selected through a combination of ideology, lobbying, and kickbacks - the educational outcomes are dependent on the effectiveness of the curriculum, and there is no guarantee that new ones being developed and offered will achieve that (and, for the reasons mentioned, a lot of reasons they might not).

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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