Are Common Core, standardized testing here to stay?

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey stated in her opening remarks at a recent forum on the Common Core and standardized testing, held at SUNY Plattsburgh (paraphrased): You might as well get used to it; the Common Core is here to stay. It would cost the state too much money to buy back the rights it gave away when it accepted money from the feds under the program Race to the Top.

From inside the political arena, that was most likely an honest view of reality.

Since that forum, continuing resistances to the idea of a Common Core and protests against excessive testing have changed the rhetoric. Now the insiders are claiming what we need is to “push the delay button.” The support for testing and a Common Core will be left in place, only needing some tweaking. We just need time to better prepare for implementation. These decisions are made in spite of the serious problems known firsthand by parents, grandparents and educators, associated with the current version of standardization with its Common Core curriculum and standardized testing. This is delaying the inevitable, is it not?

Printed documents outlining a clearly defined alternative to standardized testing and the Common Core were recently mailed to all 50 members of the state legislative education committees and the governor. As of now, not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the materials has been received. I’m left to wonder what the real reasons are for the deafening silence.

Perhaps they are ignorant about the substantial professional literature that supports the proposed alternatives and unable to admit their ignorance? They may be so committed to what they perceive as unquestionable truths (created by “experts” whom they assume can’t be ignorant, too) that they can’t entertain alternatives. Could it be they just accept the truth of Janet Duprey’s observations that the Common Core and standardized testing are here to stay and they are stuck with figuring out how to proceed while appearing for political reasons to support the complaining parents, grandparents and educators?

Regardless of their reasons for silence, there are truths they should consider. For instance, the higher levels of thinking described authoritatively in Benjamin Bloom’s “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Cognitive Domain” include analysis, synthesis and critical-creative evaluation. Learning outcomes resulting from the exercise of these intellectual skills and abilities are unique to each individual; therefore, they are not measurable on a one-size-fits-all standardized test.

No matter what else we have been told, the fact that the products of thinking are always unique to each individual disqualifies the uses of standardized testing as a measure of the higher-level intellectual skills we desperately need in today’s complex world. What will it take to get that truth implanted in the minds of decision makers just at our state level, including the Legislature, the governor, the Board of Regents, the chancellor and the education commissioner?

Consider other truths they should consider established by scholars of modern systems theory, collected in this volume: C.M., Banathy, B.H., and Olson, J.R. (Eds.) (1993). “Comprehensive Systems Design: A New Educational Technology,” New York: Springer-Verlag. These experts know from experience that evaluation of learning outcomes, using established processes of systems evaluation, can more than adequately replace standardized testing with a procedure that is individualized, authentic, open-ended, rigorous and accurate, that utilizes the latest communication technologies available today and is fully compatible with individual development and learning.

One such field-developed assessment and evaluation procedure, the Constructive Assessment, Recordkeeping and Evaluation System (CARES), was featured in the materials that were sent to our representatives in New York state government. Don’t you think there should at least be a fair hearing? Or is it too late?

Is it too much to ask decision makers, educators and the general public to study the literature that might help them avoid buying into a scheme to dumb down learning based on invalid assumptions, presented to them by presumed experts through carefully prepared PowerPoint presentations, supported by the Gates Foundation, etc. and promoted by David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, who is the ninth president of the College Board that designs the SAT and AP tests? Surveying any of the following could be a start:

Almy, M.C. (1979) “The impact of Piagetian theory on education, philosophy, psychiatry, and psychology,” Baltimore: University Park Press

Arnold, Robert L. (2013) “Remaking our Schools for the Twenty-First Century: A Blueprint for Change/Improvement in our Educational Systems,” Ithaca Press

Ausubel, D.P. (1960). “The use of advance organizers in the learning and retention of meaningful verbal material,” Journal of Educational Psychology

Bloom, B., et al. (1956) “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain,” New York: David McKay Co. Inc.

Gagne, R. (1985). “The Conditions of Learning (4th),” New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Lowenfeld, Viktor (1947) “Creative and Mental Growth,” New York: Macmillan Co.

Phenix, Philip (1964) “Realms of Meaning: A Philosophy of Curriculum for General Education,” New York: Mc Graw Hill Book Co.

Piaget, Jean and Inhelder, B. (1958) “The Growth of Logical Thinking from Childhood to Adolescence,” New York: Basic Books

Reigeluth, C.M., Banathy, B.H., and Olson, J.R. (Eds.) (1993) “Comprehensive Systems Design: A New Educational Technology,” New York: Springer-Verlag

Whitehead, Alfred North (1985) “The Aims of Education and Other Essays,” New York: reprinted by Free Press.

Robert L. Arnold lives in Willsboro and is a professor emeritus of education at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Email him at