Christopher Tienken, Raise Questions and Provide Evidence

Filed in Uncategorized by on March 7, 2014 0 Comments

At the request of Idahoans for Local Education, Christopher Tienken sent written testimony to the House and Senate Education Committee Chairman, Representative DeMordaunt and Senator Goedde.

Below is a summary of this testimony.



The purpose of my testimony is to raise questions and provide evidence.


My work on the Common Core has been widely circulated around the nation, in Europe, as well as the English speaking countries in the South Pacific.


How can one curriculum in mathematics and language arts prepare all children in Idaho to attend one of the over 4,400 colleges and universities in the United States or to pursue the tens of thousands of careers, some of which have not even been invented yet?

Of course one curriculum cannot prepare all children for all colleges and careers and there are many reasons why. The Common Core might be a positive advance for some school districts, but might actually be detrimental to others. It should be a local decision as whether to adopt all, part, or none of the Core. Today I will raise just four important issues to consider with the Common Core.


Issue #1

First, the quality of the standards has not been validated empirically and no mechanism has been created to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis, 2010).  In fact, as colleagues and I presented in many articles and speeches on the topic since 2009,  the major arguments made by the vendors and marketers of the Core about the need for its adoption collapse under a review of the empirical literature: America‘s children are ―lagging behind international peers in terms of academic achievement, and (b) the economic vibrancy and future of the United States Relies upon American students outranking their global peers on international tests of academic achievement because of the mythical relationship between ranks on those tests and a country‘s economic competitiveness. That is, the reasons you are told you need the Core, lack actual evidence. They are hollow claims.


Issue #2

The second issue I would like to raise is that the language arts and mathematics curriculum sequences embedded in the Core Standards Are nothing more than rehashed versions of the recommendations from the Committee Of Ten In 1893 and the Committee Of 15 In 1893; hardly 21st century innovations. The Standards do little to promote global literacy through cultural collaboration, strategizing, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and cooperation: skills vitally important not only to “compete” but to synergize globally.


Issue #3

Third, the evidence provided by the vendors of the Core, for the effectiveness of the Core, calls into question the quality of the standards. The official website for the CCSS claims to have the best evidence available. The site’s authors allege that the standards are  evidence-­‐based and lists two homegrown documents to prove it: Myths vs Facts (NGA, 2010) and the Joint International Benchmarking Report (NGA, 2008).  The Myths   document presents claims that the standards have “made use of a large and growing body of knowledge” (p. 3).


In the scientific world, knowledge derives in part from carefully controlled and independently conducted scientific experiments and observations. Therefore, one would expect to find references to high quality empirical research to support the 6 standards. When I reviewed that “large and growing body of knowledge” offered by the NGA, I found that it was not large, and in fact built mostly on one report, Benchmarking for Success, created by the NGA and the CCSSO, the same groups that created these standards; Not exactly the independent research I had hoped to find.


Issue #4

My fourth and final point is that the claim that the CCSS are necessary due to U.S. students causing a loss of economic competitive advantage is patently false.  The U.S. is the world leader in creativity and innovation. The idea that the CCSS will lead to more creativity and innovation is not supported by evidence.  Standardizing creativity is an oxymoron. By its nature, creativity is developed over a long period of time, and the outcomes of creativity are brought about by diverse and completely unstandardized experiences.


We need to jettison the idea that all students must know the same set of narrow content and skills, at the same level of difficulty, and demonstrate that knowledge in 7 exactly the same manner beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills commonly used in Grades 6 or 7.  Only then can we embrace the idea of individual interests and passion, and begin to imagine a creative curriculum with multiple pathways through high school and to college and careers (Zhao, 2012a).



These accomplishments and numerous others, too many to list, were not the result of the standardized system brought on by No Child Left Behind and now Common Core and national testing.  These accomplishments were a result of the non-­‐ standardized, locally controlled, public education system that existed before 2000.  Do the state and federal governments have a role they can play?  Of course, but that role should not be that of a centralizer, homogenizer, and standardizer at the classroom level that extinguishes creativity and innovation in favor of a system built on imitation and regurgitation.



The complete testimony and a listing of works related to the citations and works consulted for this testimony is provided in the attached document.


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