Monday, October 26, 2015

EdD 1st Formative Submission - Critical Reviews


Tienken, C. (2012). The Common Core State Standards: The Emperor Is Still Looking for His Clothes. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(4), 152-155.

The Common Core State Standards (the CCSS)  “are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K–12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.” (Common Core State Standards, 2015, p3). All but five States of the USA have adopted the CCSS, (Tienken, 2012). 

The CCSS are extremely controversial politically in the USA. We know from the first few lines of Tienken (2012) that the author is not well disposed to the CCSS when he notes that “empirical evidence that demonstrates the efficacy of the initiative remains elusive.” He then refers to Baines (2011) who has “gone as far to describe the de facto nationalization of public schooling as the Stalinization of education”. Baines (2011) compares the contemporary educational practice in the USA (the adoption of the CCSS) with Soviet educational reforms of the 1930s. It is interesting however that Tienken has, in referring to Baines, substituted phrase “the de facto nationalization of public schooling” where he could have written simply “the Common Core State Standards”, thereby equating the Standards with de-facto nationlization, as if it were a given fact.

Tienken now turns to his main goal, a critique of Conley (2011)a and b. In introducing us to Conley’s papers, he writes “two reports purported to demonstrate the efficacy of the CCSS surfaced.” The use of the verb “surface” is interesting, as it is used here in the sense of  “to appear or become obvious after being hidden or not seen” (, 2015) as if Conley et al’s research had been hidden and recently found, instead of merely published, which was in fact the case.

On two occasions Tienken refers (one implies) to those who have prepared or published the CCSS as “vendors”, for example in the sentence: “[Conley et al] conclude that the CCSS will produce the positive effects that vendors claim.” This is an interesting use of that noun because the CCSS are not, apparently, a commodity for sale. On the other hand, coming at the CCSS from a Foucaultian perspective, Sanford (2012) sees the Standards as a neoliberal construction made to monetise education.

Two cogent criticisms of Conley et al’s methodology are made by Tienken. First, the subjects of their research were all people who were asked about the CCSS, there was no control group, asked the same questions about other educational standards. Second, the subjects were college professors, not school teachers - that is, they were educators working with the product of the CCSS, not those on the front line using it to teach.

On four occasions, Tienken conflates the CCSS with a curriculum, for example, “There are endless career options for students. How can one curriculum prepare every student for any one career?” This might be a fair criticism if the CCSS purported to be a curriculum, but it does not. It is a set of standards, or constructs, to which a curriculum can be pinned.

Tienken has set out to discredit the work of Conley et al, and he makes good points about methodology which should be addressed in further study. But his use of discourse is such that it highlights the controversy surrounding the CCSS rather than their validity or lack of it.


Sanstead, W. G. (2011). North Dakota English Language Arts & Literacy Content Standards.

I shall deal only with the foreword to the above document. The remainder of it is, in any event, taken directly from the national Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS 2015). The foreword is written by Wayne Sanstead, N Dakota’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in the state. Sanstead, although a professional politician, has a background in education, having been a high school teacher for many years, and holding an EdD, (Ballotpedia, 2015).

The aim of the foreword is to commend the CCSS to stakeholders, (parents, teachers, students, potential employers, tertiary level teachers and administrators). The context is that the Standards have been approved, and will be implemented with effect two years later.

Sanstead gives a bullet point of the standards attributes, including the claim that they “[a]re evidence based, (Sanstead, 2011, p5). I’m at an early stage in my research into the CCSS, but can find no evidence of trialing of the standards, so must treat the assertion of their being evidence based with caution.

On two occasions Sanstead deploys the verb “to validate”, claiming that the standards “have been validated by our state’s best educators”, (p4) and later that “committees of statewide educators” were convened to “review [and] validate… these standards”. For language testers, validation has a particular, complex meaning. It is not something that can be done by a committee of the “state’s best educators”, rather, it depends on an examination of test results by a large population of learners, to ascertain if the constructs in the standards have been validated in the real world.

If we follow Bachman (2005) we can go further and look at the standards “consequential validity”, that is, what are the consequences of learners taking part in assessment of the the constructs they have learned during their years of instruction. These are K-12 standards, so learners who started using them in 2013 (Sanstead p5) won’t be “college or career ready” (Sanstead, p9) until they graduate from High School in 2025/6, and only then can final high school assessment, and data from tertiary education and work-places, tell us if indeed the standards have been validated.


Bachman, L. F. (2005). Building and supporting a case for test use. Language Assessment Quarterly: An International Journal, 2(1), 1-34.

Baines, L. 2011. Stalinizing American education. Teachers College
Record, September 16. Available at:,. (2015). Wayne Sanstead - Ballotpedia. Retrieved 26 October 2015, from

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. (2015).

Conley, D. T., Drummond, K. V., de Gonzalez, A., Rooseboom, J., & Stout, O. (2011). Reaching the Goal: The Applicability and Importance of the Common Core State Standards to College and Career Readiness. Educational Policy Improvement Center (NJ1).,. (2015). Kappa Delta Pi. Retrieved 24 October 2015, from,. (2015). surface | an outside part or layer of something. Retrieved 24 October 2015, from

Sanford, A. D. (2012). A Foucaultian Genealogy of the Common Core State Standards' Production of Secondary English Language Arts and the English Language Arts Student. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

Sanstead, W. G. (2011). North Dakota English Language Arts & Literacy Content Standards.,. (2015). About Seton Hall. Retrieved 24 October 2015, from

Tienken, C. (2012). The Common Core State Standards: The Emperor Is Still Looking for His Clothes. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(4), 152-155.