The Hechinger Report, which bills itself as Covering Innovation & Inequality in Education and is partially funded by the Gates Foundation, writes in More than five years after adopting Common Core, Kentucky’s black-white achievement gap is widening:
By spring 2015, 54 percent of Kentucky elementary school students were proficient in the English language arts and 49 percent were proficient in math.
Despite that improvement, within those numbers are hidden divisions that have existed for decades. Breaking the scores down shows that African-American students fare much worse than their white peers.
In spring 2015, in the elementary grades, 33 percent of black students were proficient in reading, versus 58 percent of white students; in math, the breakdown was 31 percent to 52 percent, according to Kentucky Department of Education figures.
And those gaps, in many cases, have widened, according to an analysis of state testing data by The Hechinger Report and the Courier-Journal.
Get ready for the arguments that it’s not the standards themselves creating the widening gap, it’s the implementation. Or lack of funding. Or faulty assessments. Or perhaps it’s this argument contained in the Hechinger Report: the government must take more control of low achieving students’ day to day life via extra attention. Spoiler alert: It’s not the introduction of more IEP services:
Kevin Cosby is head of the historically black Simmons College and pastor of St. Stephen Church. He’s been working to improve the education of the black community in Louisville for more than three decades. The idea of Common Core resonated with him after former state commissioner of education Terry Holliday visited the church to promote it.
Holliday “talked convincingly about how schools were failing African-American children and that the new Common Core state standards would change that,” Cosby said.
But with the gap stubbornly wide five years after implementation, Cosby said that the challenge as he sees it is “that the core is not always common.” If he had his druthers, he said, schools would have longer hours, provide children with three meals and help them do their homework. Schools would also be open on Saturdays and through the summer.
“Another issue is that black students need to have their culture celebrated, which schools run by white females do not do,” he said. “Only by being proud of their history can students reach their highest levels of achievement.”
Cosby believes that one solution is the expansion of charter schools which would ostensibly allow the addition of extra hours of instruction and provide them with meals. If Common Core has not reached its stated goal of reducing the achievement gap because of
- implementation issues
- faulty assessments
- not enough school instruction time and assistance (tutoring and meals)
- lack of cultural celebration
then Common Core was indeed not the panacea to reduce the achievement gap. If you research what was published since 2009 when the standards were adopted via governors’ MOUs and acceptance of The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the standards were only one aspect for reducing achievement gaps. This goal of students of reducing the achievement gap includes more funding and more governmental interventions and more assessments so that all children reach a common goal. California was reporting on larger achievement gaps in 2015 after the standards were instituted and one solution was to propose a $70 Million Ethnic Studies addition to the budget. (Read the comments after the article).
Is Common Core the straw man which created the increased achievement gap? Is Common Core the vehicle not only for data gathering but also the foundation for more governmental/NGO spending? Go beyond the Common Core close reading technique and research the history about Common Core and why it was adopted. Bill Gates was prescient in his comments about the need for the standards in 2009 when he addressed state legislators at the National Council of State Legislators. Revisit his comments on the need for the standards to create a uniform customer base and the expansion of longitudinal data bases which will track students and teachers. The adoption and implementation intention was not to reduce an achievement gap, rather, it was the vehicle for the expansion of NGO and the Federal Government to direct education at the state/local level in a quest for social justice:
Watch for the achievement gap issue expanded to include the newest talking point present in educational disparity: opportunity gap. It’s currently being used in my district and if you pay attention to the rhetoric coming from your district, you might notice the addition of the lack of opportunity to explain increased gap in scores. More from Hechinger:
Pruitt is encouraged by the current efforts at schools such as at Dunn to address the individual needs of students. In a similar vein, the Kentucky Department of Education recently started the Novice Reduction for Gap Closure program, which is focused entirely on closing the state’s achievement gap. Among other things, it helps teachers become more sensitive and culturally attuned to the level of diversity in their classrooms. An online platform shares the advice of teachers with experience in diverse schools, and the state is working with districts to suggest interventions teachers can use to reach students. Pruitt expects these new efforts to close what he calls “the opportunity gap.”
More than five years in, Kentucky may be ahead of the rest of the country on its use of the Common Core, but Common Core’s supporters say the state and the standards still need more time to move the needle.
“We’re still at the start of implementation,” said Education Trust’s Santelises. “It’ll take longer to see the results of Common Core.”
How long do you think it will take to see the results of Common Core? When will the experimentation on children cease? When the opportunity gap is never closed, and the achievement gap stays stagnant, yet another ed reform buzzword will be introduced to institute yet even more governmental programs and NGO created services. And so it goes.