SEPTEMBER 27, 2015
Common Core Test
with Vice President of the Thomas
B. Fordham Institute, Robert Pondiscio
with Executive Director, Michael
Common Core Test
Don’t shoot the
test-score messenger, California
By Michael J. Petrilli & Robert
Five long years ago, California and more than
40 other states adopted the Common Core standards in reading and
math, setting dramatically higher expectations for students in
elementary and secondary schools. Now we’ve reached a critical
milestone in this effort, as parents and taxpayers just got to see
for the first time the scores on the new tests aligned to the
standards. The news was sobering.
Just a third of California’s students are on track in math; the
results weren’t much better in reading and writing. Though the
scores may come as a shock to many, let us explain why people
shouldn’t shoot the messenger.
First it’s important to remember why so many states started down
this path in the first place. Under federal law, every state must
test children every year in grades three through eight and once in
high school to ensure they are making progress. That’s a good idea.
Parents deserve to know if their kids are learning, and taxpayers
are entitled to know if the money we spend on schools is being used
But it is left to states to define what it means to be “proficient”
in math and reading. Unfortunately, most states set a very low bar.
They “juked the stats.”
The result was a comforting illusion that most children were on
track to succeed in college, carve out satisfying careers, and stand
on their own two feet. To put it plainly, it was a lie. Imagine
being told year after year that you’re doing just fine, only to find
out when you apply for college or a job, that you’re simply not as
prepared as you need to be.
Such experiences were not isolated cases. Every year, 85 percent of
California’s community college students must take “remedial” math
courses. Many of those students will leave without a degree, or any
kind of credential. That’s a lousy way to start one’s adult life.
The most important step to fixing this problem is to stop lying to
ourselves — and to parents — and ensure our children are ready for
the next grade, and when they turn 18, for college or work. Several
national studies, including analyses of the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP), show that just 35 to 40 percent of high
school graduates leave our education system at the “college
prepared” level. Considering that 20 percent of our children don’t
even make it to graduation day, that means that maybe a third of our
kids nationally are getting to that college-ready mark. (Not
coincidentally, about a third of young people today complete a
four-year college degree.)
The Common Core should help to boost college readiness — and college
completion — by significantly raising expectations, starting in
kindergarten. But we shouldn’t be surprised that California found
that just a third of its students are “on track” for college. In
fact, that’s what we should expect. Parents, in other words, are
finally learning the truth.
This is a big shift, but a necessary one, from the Lake Wobegon
days, when, like in Garrison Keillor’s fictional town, all the
children were above average. Parents and taxpayers should resist the
siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack
the Common Core or the associated tests. They may not be perfect,
but they are finally giving parents, educators, and taxpayers a much
more honest assessment of how our children are doing — a standard
that promises to end the lies and games with statistics. Virtually
all kids aspire to go to college and prepare for a satisfying
career. Now, at last, we know if they’re on track to do so.
Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio are president and vice
president, respectively, of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and
fathers of school-aged children.
United States Justice
I HAVE NEVER MET A WAR HERO
I know that may seem like a strange statement
since I am a U.S. Army veteran, have two sons who are serving in the
army, and am a lifetime member of the American Legion and past
commander of a Legion Post. In addition, I have written a book about
my father’s unit in World War II. It was while researching and
writing that book that I realized that I would never meet a war
hero, at least not anyone who would admit to being one.
I started working on the book “The
Mortarmen” in 2001 I had only my father’s diary to work with. He
had died in 1987 so I could not even question him to get more
details. However, I learned that in the mid-nineties an association
of the survivors of the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion had been
formed and the battalion records and some company records were
available. I made copies of these and studied them carefully. I
found that of a battalion of almost 1,000 men 18 had received the
Silver Star, 103 had been awarded Bronze Stars for bravery, and 336
had been awarded Purple Hearts.
The battalion had landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and was in combat
for 326 straight days. Sixty five soldiers in the 87th were killed
and hundreds were wounded. After my initial research I started
contacting and interviewing the unit survivors, and in 2004 I
attended the final reunion of the men of the 87th in Baltimore.
There were only eleven of them able to make it, but I was able to
talk to them individually and as a group.
Some of the men I interviewed at the reunion, and both before and
after, had won awards for heroism yet I couldn’t get them to talk
about that. They all denied being heroes, but they gladly talked
about their buddies who they all proclaimed were real heroes. I had
run across this before with my own father. He was a 21 year old 1st
Lieutenant on D-Day and as such Roy Connelly was one of the oldest
members of the unit and was known as one of the “old guys”. This was
because so many of these men were not technically men at all, but
When we were growing up my brother and I were occasionally allowed
to go through my Dad’s foot locker he had kept after the war. It
contained many pictures he had taken and well as items captured from
German soldiers. There was also a case containing his Bronze Star.
He just referred to it as a medal he had received. He had other
medals in the foot locker and he never talked much about them. Years
later we learned that this medal was different and it was for valor.
Eventually, we got him to tell us the story of how he had won it.
The 87th had been moving into a village that had supposedly been
vacated by the Germans. However, the retreating Germans had not left
yet and the battalion ran right into them. A fierce fire fight broke
and the mortarmen suddenly found themselves fighting as infantry. It
was absolute chaos and at one point my Dad saw two of the men under
his command penned down behind some rubble in a street by a German
machine gun crew firing from the second story of a nearby building.
It was just a matter of time before the men were killed so my father
charged the building, dodging the enemy fire. He got to the wall of
the building just under the window the fire was coming from. His
back was to the wall and he could not step out without drawing enemy
fire, so he does the only thing he can; he pulls a grenade from his
belt, pulls the pin and throws the grenade back over his head toward
It was an act of incredible bravery. If the grenade is on target,
Dad would save the lives of two of his men. On the other hand, if
the grenade misses the window, it will bounce back to my father’s
feet and kill him instantly. Obviously, the grenade hit its mark and
my father received the Bronze Star. Yet according to him, he was not
a hero; “he was just doing his job.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that statement from
America’s heroes. At my American Legion post you will hear many war
stories because veterans will talk to each other, but not that often
to others, even in their own families. However, I can’t remember any
of them talking about their medals. They would just say they were
doing their jobs and they mean it.
This humility is just one of the things I see in my fellow veterans.
They took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States
against all enemies foreign and domestic and they don’t believe that
oath ever goes away. They ask for very little in return for their
sacrifices, and unfortunately they get even less than they deserve.
They are not just ignored by the government they defended they are
labeled as potential domestic terrorists simply because they served.
They are under assault by numerous federal agencies that seek to
declare them incompetent to handle their own affairs and declare
them too mentally ill to own firearms. They are denied not only
decent medical care, but even the basic rights of all Americans to
privacy and due process of law.
Instead the PC crowd has created a new class of “heroes” for the
American people. I’m not buying it. An NBA player who announces that
he is gay is not a hero and does not deserve a phone call from the
President. Especially from a President who is effectively destroying
the U.S. Military.
A young thug who commits a robbery in Ferguson, Mo and is killed
while attacking a police officer is not a hero and doesn’t deserve
to have three representatives from the White House attend his
funeral. Especially since no one from the White House attended the
funeral of American sniper Chris Kyle, the funeral of U.S. Army
General Harold Greene who was killed in Afghanistan, or any of the
funerals of the marines and sailor killed by a terrorist in
In addition, a man who decides he really wants to be a woman and
starts wearing dresses does not deserve a heroism award from a major
television network. Jason Collins, Michael Brown, and Bruce Jenner
never put their lives on the line by joining the military and
fighting for our country. They are not heroes and neither are the
people at McDonald’s who demand $15.00 per hour for making burgers
while the new recruits in the military work much more than 40 hours
per week and are paid just over $8.00 per hour for risking their
Compare $8.00 per hour with the millions demanded by professional
athletes who work for approximately six months a year. Some of them
earn millions more with product endorsements. They are proclaimed as
heroes and receive all types of rewards and accolades if they win a
championship for their team. When American veterans win a battle or
even a war, they are told to be quiet and go away into obscurity.
Military members may be honored at half time of an NFL game, but
only if the military pays the teams for the privilege.
Veterans stand at attention and salute when the pledge is being
said, while the First Lady of the United States sends text messages
or mouths the words, “all this for that damned flag.” I know who the
real heroes are in this country even though they won’t admit it.
They are not overpaid sports stars, Hollywood or news media
elitists, and certainly not the politicians who take the same oath
to the Constitution as our soldiers do and then promptly ignore it
and push for their own agenda. Our heroes are members of the
military, military veterans, police officers, fire fighters and EMTs,
and they deserve our respect and support.
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