# D. Superior rejects Common Core

For your Brick by Brick file…

The Diocese of Superior (WI) has opted out of Common Core!  Here is a statement from the Diocese (their diocesan website is fancy enough that, right now, it isn’t working.  You get stuck in a flash loop.  Nice.):

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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### 7 Responses to D. Superior rejects Common Core

1. Bob B. says:

This is great and wonderful for the students who live in this diocese!
As much as I realize that the bishops have to depend on their education offices to keep them up-to-date, this rush to accept this Gates’ Foundation concept should have sounded an alarm. When the NCEA accepted \$100k from them, another alarm should have been sounded. What hasn’t been generally known is that the Gates’ Foundation has given the Jesuit-founded Cristo Rey Network millions of dollars for a decade!

2. frjim4321 says:

Interesting piece on CC this morning on NPR, seems that they’ve been rushing it because they don’t want to allow much time for discussion. Seems like another version of “teaching to the test.”

Professor friend at a Jesuit University claims the students don’t know how to think anymore.

3. Bob B. says:

Having taught high school math in a Jesuit high school, this Common Core method was REQUIRED to be taught consisting of: showing a video; explaining the problem and working a few problems; working a few more problems with the class; give the homework (with answers!); quiz the next day after going over homework; and you had better stay on-schedule! The quiz consisted of a three questions in which the student picks ONLY ONE (basically, easy, medium or hard). Grading was “different” – try a little and you get 50%; try a little bit more, 60%; more than one error, 70%; one calculation error (but still wrong answer), 85%. (Math is so passé, isn’t it? It’s not that most people working in the factories really need it, right?)

4. Phil_NL says:

To me, it sounds they don’t reject CC out of principle, but simply don’t want to throw out what they see as a successful approach they have right now for something that’s untested. Which is a very prudent approach; let those who have little to loose try something new first, rather than risking destorying one’s own success.
Besides, if you do have a certain way of doing things – whether it is teaching or making a product or providing a service – you cannot from one day to the next switch the entire process around without some serious friction among staff and teething problems in the results. If it ain’t broken, best see what others do, and then decide if and how you can apply the lessons learned in your own organization, preferably without breaking it.

A few asides:
Fr. Jim, you seem to imply ‘teaching to the test’ is not a good thing. of course, that all depends on what you test! There’s very little in a curriculum that can’t be tested, and in fact, until you do, one has no clue if the stuff being thought has come through. Moreover, most students could very much use the added incentive that the test they need to pass requires them to study / gain certain skills. My impression is that large parts of the US educational system tends to underuse that mechanism by not failing a significant percentage of students for any given test.

Secondly, “students don’t know how to think anymore” – I daresay that a significant percentage never did, as the percentage of the population that has received the gift of a good, thinking mind and intellect is, in my experience (as a university professor), much lower than the percentage that attends university / college. You simply cannot teach intelligence, and without that, you can’t teach how to use it.
However, there is indeed a problem where students who do have the necessary gray matter have simply never been required to exercise it properly before they reach university, and are then in for a nasty surprise. As are the professors teaching them, who have to build it up from a much lower level than they hoped, which of course eats time they would like to spend on more advanced stuff.

“You simply cannot teach intelligence, and without that, you can’t teach how to use it.”

Well, that may be going a bit far. The person who can barely master addition and the person who can do category theory with ease both, essentially, approach things in the same way, it is just that one person has more neural density and so more pathways open. A good method for solving problems can be taught to most people, just as most people can be taught the rudiments of piano-playing. Because of natural gifts or, to a certain extent, stubborn refusal to quit, many people can rise to a level of proficiency that is more that adequate for making music. What we don’t teach is how to solve problems very effectively, despite the fact that we have at least some grasp of the underlying principles. It costs little money to do so. It also costs little money to train a mind to remember facts. For every student that claims not to be able to remember academic facts, just ask them to outline the plotline of their favorite t.v. show. Then, ask them to explain why they can do the one, but not the other. The answers can be very revealing to the student.

I cannot draw worth a darn and, yet, I can learn the techniques well enough for practical purposes and leave the rest to the experts. The reason I haven’t done so is that there is only so much time in life and this is not my priority. Many students don’t do well, simply put, because they do not consider education to be a high priority. Find out the reasons for that, and you will go a long way towards solving the problems of modern education.

The Chicken

6. Phil_NL says:

Dear Chicken,

Of course there was a bit of hyperbole in the second part of that line, as no person is completely devoid of intelligence, and therefore can be taught something, including many tricks to make a hard task easier or get around the parts we’re not so good at – which is a vast amount of what we do with our intellect anyway.
The point I had in mind revolved around the problems many students have with tasks like identifying relevant distinctions, finding similarities, seeing contradictions if two elements/theories that were discussed separately are combined, adjusting known procedures to account for newly arising problems, etc. etc. For tasks like those, memorization, structure and perseverance certainly do help, but will get you less far than with tasks which are less conceptual and/or innovative in nature.
That aspect of thinking is, in my opinion, mainly linked to raw intelligence, and cannot be taught – as most tricks to get around the problems can be taught, but at some point, a proper education is not about getting the job done and circumnavigate the problem, but about achieving sufficient mental agility. That may be trained, but if the necessary neurons aren’t there, they aren’t there.
My concern in that area is twofold: firstly, we assume that a great many more people posses the intellect for this than we observe in practice, and secondly, most that do posses it, aren’t challenged sufficiently to employ it at a young age, which means that the end result is either of a lower level, or – more commonly – achieved much more inefficiently, since training your intellect is essential.

As for your point that education is not considered enough of a priority by many students, I concur. My appraisal of the US situation is that it is mainly caused by the idea that you can always get a degree in something (phys ed., social studies, etc) which would be enough. It would be better if apart from the carrot, more stick would be employed: fail more students, be more selective. And then not in a competitive way (since that only means you need to belong to the top X% of your class/year etc, and makes it worthwhile to put others down), but in an absolute way: meet this standard, and if 4% meet it, so be it, if 25% do the next year, so be it. (Though with a good standardized test, differences will be much smaller, especially in a large sample. Point is, however: your average graduating high school class isn’t a large sample).