The misleading news reports on the November 17 vote for “MCAS 2.0” by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)
Sandra Stotsky –
BESE’s decision to adopt Commissioner Chester’s recommendation for a “hybrid” test titled MCAS 2.0 when it knew that it would be 100% Common Core-aligned, as much as 90% PARCC according to the Commissioner, has confused educators, elected representatives, as well as the public at large in and beyond the Commonwealth.
Media across the whole country—Right, Center, and Left—are also confused about the meaning of the BESE vote and have been sowing confusion in every outlet they command. But it is too late to amend the damage caused by the Worcester Telegram on November 21 and by the misleading headline for Kate Zernike’s original New York Times article on November 20 implying that BESE had voted out Common Core-based tests. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/z/kate_zernike/index.html
The Worcester Telegram, for unknown reasons, chose to re-publish Zernike’s article after replacing the original picture of a Revere, Massachusetts classroom in Zernike’s article with a (flattering) picture of Sandra Stotsky taken at an anti-Common Core meeting in the Northboro Public Library on June 2015. Since Zernike’s article never mentioned or quoted Stotsky, the Telegram article, headed by the Stotsky picture as well as the original headline, was the likely source of confusion for the rest of the media in the country. <http://marketplace.telegram.com/article/20151121/NEWS/151129720> Like lemmings, one reporter after another wrote articles claiming that BESE voted out Common Core’s standards (not just PARCC tests in name only).
In hindsight, a good part of the problem seems to be media willingness to believe anything in print with a New York Times imprimatur and an unwillingness to check sources by looking at the actual documents themselves or by talking to authentic experts on the subject. Perhaps the basic problem is inadequate training in journalism programs or institutes.
The facts, which the media still do not seem to understand, go to what the Massachusetts BESE actually voted for and why. The recommendation for a “hybrid” test that by state law must be based on the Common Core’s standards adopted by BESE in 2010 was too clever by far. The scheme turned out not to fool Massachusetts parents who got enough signatures for a ballot question to wipe out Common Core in the next state election. Only the media were fooled into thinking a vote for MCAS 2.0 meant, at the least, a “blow” against Common Core. For example, see https://www.aei.org/publication/massachusetts-deals-a-bruising-blow-to-the-common-core/
Even NPR announced it would have an afternoon hour-long program on Boston Public Radio on November 24 on how Common Core was tossed out by the state’s BESE. But the afternoon program had not a word on Common Core, just an obvious too-hastily improvised program on how hysterical Americans have become about terror threats. Perhaps NPR will schedule and broadcast a program on the latest analysis of Common Core’s effects on the school curriculum from the Brookings Institution.
A newly released analysis of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores by Tom Loveless at the Brookings Institution has lifted the veil on the claims by David Coleman (“architect” of Common Core’s English language arts standards and now president of the College Board) that a heavy dose of “informational reading” in the English curriculum (about 50%) would better prepare students for college than the traditional emphasis on literary texts (about 80%). http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brown-center-chalkboard/posts/2015/11/24-common-core-instruction-loveless
Loveless’s analysis suggests why the shift to “informational” reading and concomitant displacement of literary reading might account for the lack of progress in reading (if not decline, as in grade 4 in Massachusetts). It is a mystery why Coleman’s uninformed curriculum and pedagogical recommendations have not been examined by the country’s most prominent education researchers (who could have looked for supporting research and told the public it wasn’t there) or why most commissioners of education recommended Coleman et al’s standards to their completely clueless boards of education
Perhaps it is time for a group of state legislatures to explore the possibility of a Congressional hearing or a joint malpractice suit against the sponsors of the Common Core standards. The public needs an honest picture of the unraveling of the Common Core experiment since it can no longer count on accurate information by media that choose to limit their sources of information.