Is Chester Finn *Really* Surprised at the Collapse of College Standards?

Apr 2, 2017 by

Gretchen Logue –

He Was Warned About that Reality & Cause/Effect of CCSS in 2010.

When everybody is supposed to go to college, what happens to college standards?  Chester Finn seems quite surprised to understand the cause and effect of the Common Core State Standards he helped to promote through The Fordham Institute.  He contends the alleged original intent of the standards (higher standards for all and higher learning which makes all students career/college ready) has been hijacked in a quest for eqity, not academic excellence.  Finn writes in  The collapse of academic standards:

While ersatz “credit recovery” and grade inflation devalue the high school diploma by boosting graduation rates even as NAEP, PISA, PARCC, SAT, and sundry other measures show that no true gains are being made in student achievement, forces are at work to do essentially the same thing to the college diploma.

Observe the new move by CalState to do away with “remediation” upon entry to its institutions and instead to confer degree credit for what used to be the kinds of high-school-level content and skills that one had to master before gaining access to “credit-bearing” college courses.

The new term for these bridge classes for entering college students is “corequisite” and California isn’t the only place that’s using them. One study at CUNY—dealing with community colleges, not four-year institutions—says greater success was achieved when ill-prepared students were placed in “regular” college classes but given “extra support” than when they were shunted into “remediation.” Perhaps so. Perhaps placement tests aren’t the best way to determine who is actually prepared to succeed in “college level” work. But that’s not the same as saying—as CalState seems to be saying—that anyone emerging from high school, regardless of what they did or didn’t learn there, deserves entry into “regular” college classes.

That essentially erases the boundary between high school and college, and not in the good way being undertaken by sundry “early college” and “Advanced Placement” courses, the purpose of which is to bring college-level work into high schools. Now we’re seeing high-school-level work being brought into college, there to count for credit toward bachelor’s degrees.

What have those outside the status quo education reform groups been saying the last 9-10 years about what would happen if CCSS Initiative was adopted by state education agencies?  Here are two white papers/reports from educators (Stotsky and Milgram), who were on the validation CCSS committee and had serious concerns about the standards and the process by which they were written and adopted.  Their concerns were unheeded by David Coleman and the other unelected education policy writers:

Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman from 2012:  How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk

The Pioneer Institute from 2013:

What was predicted by the CCSS proponents when K-12 students became ‘college ready via the CCSS standards’?   From the Pioneer Institute article:

Zimba was particularly clairvoyant in his discussion on Common Core’s lack of preparing students for selective college.  From  Jason Zimba Told Us So: CCSS Math Won’t Prepare Students for Selective Colleges. Apparently it’s Not Preparing Them for State College Either:

Chester Finn can complain that students aren’t prepared for college and the disastrous results for society but he was one of the early proponents who helped push it to its adoption.  He’s now throwing colleges under the bus for having to accept the unprepared students the ed reformers such as himself helped create and promote.  Notice that the current talking point from the reformers is now not “it’s an implementation problem” it’s now that the goal under “college for all” has altered the “academic excellence” goal the standards *now* have been purported to achieve.  From Finn’s article:

All this is, of course, a consequence of misguided notions of equity and opportunity. But what it really does is perpetuate the illusion of success in the absence of true achievement and weaken all versions of academic standards at the very moment most states have been taking steps to strengthen them.

The CCSS Initiative has never been about academic excellence and creating students who can enter selective colleges.  It’s about creating a common educational data set for all publicly funded schools which creates data mining of students for the workforce.  Not everyone can achieve academic excellence and education reformers like Chester Finn know that if the bar for excellence is lowered and a flawed initiative couched in language of “higher standards” and “critical thinkers” is adopted, the illusion can last for a few years.  Those students on which this experiment has failed now are in college and the truth is, the college bar is indeed lower and may even be argued, the time/money currently spent for college is largely for a high school education which the CCSS educated students didn’t receive.

This is the same Chester Finn who compared CCSS as building an airplane in mid-air….

Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, however, highlighted the initiative’s flexibility as a positive change from the No Child Left Behind Act’s prescriptive nature. Panelists agreed that ultimately, the success or failure of the Common Core will hinge on these implementation challenges and whether the initiative will complement current reform efforts throughout the implementation process.

and even had a supporting role in The Fordham Institute’s youtube video on its support for Common Core in What Does Gadfly say?

According to Finn in 2013,  CCSS success depended on implementation of the standards according to the education reformers.  Most agree in 2017 that the standards have not been as successful as promised, and in fact, college standards have dropped so more students can be accepted into higher education settings.  Has the argument now shifted to the Common Core Standards Initiative is a ‘plane crash’ (hard to build airplanes while flying) because of its adherence to equity and everybody finishes the same goal at the same time?  Isn’t that a different excuse that any failure of CCSS would be because of faulty teaching aligned curriculum to the standards?

Ze’ev Wurman predicted the result of CCSS in 2010 in a speech sponsored by The Pioneer Institute: colleges would have to adjust their standards and expectations downward because of the CCSS Initiative.  The failure had nothing to do with the implementation or equity goals: the standards themselves were flawed from the beginning.  Why should Chester Finn be so surprised on the collapse of college academic standards?  The education reformers in the desert (those not connected with Gates grants, CCSSO, NGA and Achieve relationships) always knew these would be a disaster:


Source: Is Chester Finn *Really* Surprised at the Collapse of College Standards? He Was Warned About that Reality & Cause/Effect of CCSS in 2010. – Missouri Education Watchdog

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