The New York Times’ best letter ever!

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013

It expresses a simple point: A letter in today’s New York Times may be the smartest we’ve ever read in that paper.

The letter may not seem to be smart. But it massively is.

The letter comes from Deanna Kuhn, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. As Kuhn starts, she is discussing the “Common Core standards” which many states are adopting for use in their public schools.

Adopting new standards and testing for them isn’t enough, Kuhn says:
KUHN (4/26/13): Hope runs high that the new Common Core learning standards will fix American education. A risk is thinking that the standards alone can do the job.

The intention of the standards, the editorial says, “is to help students develop strong reasoning skills earlier than is now common,” with students by fifth grade “required to produce essays in which they introduce, support and defend arguments.”

These are objectives hard to argue with. But simply adopting the standards will not make it happen. Nor will widespread testing to gauge whether they’ve been met.
Kuhn makes a very important point. It’s easy to institute new standards. It’s easy to administer tests to see if students have met them. (Although such testing often gets bungled at this point in time.)

But these two steps aren’t enough, Kuhn says. This is what we still have to do after adopting new standards:
KUHN (continuing directly): Tellingly, it is “the states and localities” that are charged with the more formidable task of figuring out how to achieve these standards.

How does one develop strong reasoning skills in students, and exactly what do these skills look like across different kinds of content?

Teachers can’t be expected to come up with answers to these critical questions on their own. Instead, we need to recognize the standards as only a first step, not a final one. The mission is one that will require significant, sustained investment in research on how children learn, if we are to find out what we need to know to meet such standards.
It isn’t enough to demand higher standards. Someone has to figure out how to do the teaching—how to help students reach those standards! And no, you can’t simply stamp your feet and insist that teachers figure it out!

This is unbelievably basic, but it never gets said. It echoes the point we’ve often made about Michelle Rhee’s tenure in Washington.

Rhee was constantly threatening teachers and demanding that learning increase. We liked the way she insisted that Washington's kids deserved better outcomes. But did you ever see her explain how to produce increased learning?

Education departments have to do more than simply invent higher standards. Someone has to figure out how to help our actual students reach those higher standards.

The people in charge rarely do that. They simply dream up their brilliant new standards. After that, they name-call the teachers if the new standards aren’t met.

Kuhn makes a stunningly basic point. Despite our many “educational experts,” this point is rarely made.

We fondly recall Mrs. Young: Long ago, teaching fifth grade in Baltimore, we were supervised by the wonderfully upbeat Elizabeth Young.

We’ll never forget the time she read The Hundred Dresses to our class. Truly, it’s a brilliant book. But Mrs. Young had 35 kids hanging on every word about the unfairness visited on a Polish immigrant girl in 1940s Pittsburgh.

None of our students were Polish immigrants. Despite that, they hung on every word, as if they were clinging to life itself.

(If the children of the world ever form a virtual nation, the motto on their coat of arms will say: “But that’s not fair!”)

One day, we told Mrs. Young about our textbook problem. Our students weren’t reading at traditional grade level, or even within a few years of same. They simply couldn’t read the textbooks we were supposed to work with.

Mrs. Young was wonderfully upbeat. We can still hear her response: “Well, Mr. Somerby, you can write your own textbooks!”

Well actually, no—we couldn’t do that! In part, that is Kuhn’s point.


  1. Do I feel morally superior to Michelle Rhee? You bet. She is perfectly happy, indeed seems to relish it, to ruin certain people's lives because she thinks, and only thinks with grossly insufficient evidence, they do their jobs poorly.

    Anyone with strong views thinks they are self-evident to someone with an open mind. Since those views are self-evident, there is no choice but to consider those who reject them morally inferior at least to that extent.

    Railing against people for feeling morally superior is the ultimate quixotic quest. TDH should stick to the language used and parse it carefully, as he has been with the War on Gore, the education war and certain press figures like Matthews, Dowd and Collins. Or identify when language should have been used, or topics raised, but were avoided.

  2. Quaker in a BasementApril 26, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    It isn’t enough to demand higher standards.

    Well that explains why I haven't been able to live off my cat's wages.

  3. Redness and slight irritation are possible, however these are
    only generally noticed in those with sensitive skin.

    Do certain birth control method pills actually cause acne as a side
    effect. In addition, our cells also employ water to handle nutrients, filter
    toxins, and keep health. Now imagine being affected by acne into the twenties and thirties,
    which unfortunately does happen, the damaging effects over many years may be devastating on your confidence and happiness.

    Feel free to surf to my web blog :: best acne system

  4. Clearly he must already have been a person of means with connections in high places since the King of England is
    supposed to have intervened and secured his release. Usually made
    from durable platinum 950 or in 18-carat gold, the
    stones come in various shapes, the Trapezoids, the Oval and Round Brilliants, the Princess Cuts
    and Pear shapes being the most popular ones. And this is what is being done by using
    Promise Rings.

    Feel free to surf to my web-site: Promise rings on sale

  5. Patients who get a lower dose relapse more often. With our bodies
    working in overdrive, you will get eruptions inside
    skin which leads to acne. Red light is thought to improve healing and
    lower inflammation. The best model of organic virgin coconut
    oil is a personal choice.

    Also visit my blog post newborn acne (

  6. Further, initials of the name can be lettered on mini pieces
    of stones to make it even more personal. In this case, truly the object is a thing, the objective is
    the important part. With the discovery of smaller-than-1-carat diamonds, the diamond industry
    started to market eternity rings and promise rings,
    featuring tiny diamonds around the shank.

    My web page - promise ring love quotes ()

  7. You apparently decline in just a few weeks of normal consumption of fruits.
    Most individuals who take it see their acne effectively cured, experiencing long-term remission of acne
    symptoms. I will no longer have to take into consideration my acne while speaking with someone.
    Avoid using greasy or harsh products or those whose ingredients you happen to be allergic to.

    Here is my web-site acne treament

  8. It will take years to gain a specialty in such a spot.
    Joyce's jewelry business did not continue into the mid-eighteenth century and for a while the claddagh ring went out of fashion. Promise rings are an excellent tool for young couples who are intent on being exclusive and monogamous with one another.

    Also visit my weblog ... promise rings next day shipping

  9. Ahead of you decide on any piercing, take into account the affect on your image as well as your daily life.
    The silver-lipped variety produces equally wonderful pearls that are available in white to silver and frequently have ros.

    While buying these Promise Rings we must keep in mind that the inner
    meaning of it holds more value that its face value.

    Also visit my website ... web site

  10. On the other hand, in case you carry time for you to observe them, you are
    going to see a huge advancement inside high quality of one's photographs. If you guessed that they broke up before they even stepped foot onto their college campus, you are right. But just because there are no junky designs on these rings there is no reason to overlook comfort too mens titanium wedding rings.

    Look into my homepage; web page

  11. Even 2-3 light to moderate workouts every week walking or running
    is positive in fighting acne. Our entire bodies are consisting of proteins carbohydrates and fats and above all water.
    It makes miracles for a number of us when it comes to acne.
    Ayurveda or ayurvedic treatment is thought to be
    the oldest form of medicine that goes back to almost 5000 years from now.

    My web page: repair acne scars []

  12. Promise rings are typically given as an emblem of affection and
    commitment. Possibly it's a silver band which has a easy twisted design, or even a restrained series of ridges. So in case you truly need to impress her that has a romantic and stunning gift, satisfy her with all the sophistication of the brilliant princess reduce promise ring.

    Also visit my web blog ... promise rings that fit together :: ::

  13. There are lots of good sources from where it may be
    consumed. However you aren't sure for you want to mess around now with substances to have easy, comfortable since radiant skin, the easiest way features needed intended. Find out in places you can get cool clock gadgets to download, plug in and more. After giving your face a break from harsh products and keeping just gentle cleanser and moisturizer, you could see a reduction with your acne.

    my weblog - prevent acne

  14. Diets that are directed towards women aim to slim down hips, arms, tighten belly's etc. In addition, you should plan to eat meals that raise your satiety levels, feature a lower caloric density and possess a greater thermic effect of digestion. You might imagine that a list of fat burning foods contains exotic herbs and spices and foods that you can't easily find at your local grocery store or in the supermarket.

    Day 4 consist of bananas (up to 8) and skim milk (up to 8 glasses) Day 5 you
    can add up to 20 ounces of skinless chicken, lean beef, or
    fish as well as up to 6 tomatoes.

    Check out my homepage Best Fat Burning Foods

  15. It depends on who you request, but quite a few pearl professionals currently agree that freshwater cultured pearls can rival
    the attractiveness of their saltwater cousins. Some stores possess a attractive style, but don't hold the correct dimensions accessible. But these colored diamonds were just as large if not larger than many of the best colorless diamonds like the Star of Africa, Hope Diamond, etc.

    Also visit my site ... website

  16. You can prefer to display or switch off seconds, set a security and even select a burglar sound from Windows.
    Take a very small area of this and apply handful of water to thin against each other a
    bit. Under the Kiss Organics products from Kiss My Face, the appearance of organic
    personal care products made from wild-crafted and organic ingredients gained
    in popularity. This drug may damage a fetus
    so extreme caution have to be used to make
    certain that pregnancy does not occur during treatment.

    Here is my webpage :: solution for acne

  17. ) Foods loaded with Carbohydrates can increase acne by half.
    In more severe cases, topical or oral antibiotics like tetracycline
    and erythromycin may be prescribed. If someone is unable
    to get up and start breathing normally during an apnea episode,
    death can occur. The 12ml Tamanu Oil Roll On bottle is
    straight Tamanu Oil.

    Here is my web site; acne cleanse

  18. Now what thee - Bookdoes is teach you step by step guides on reducing your acne footprint and ensuring that the
    acne problem becomes the one that doesn't inflame itself further in to the future. In more serious cases, topical or oral antibiotics like tetracycline and erythromycin may be prescribed. After you rub that person by employing a towel, take care and insure who's is tenderly.
    Using a water based as an alternative to an oil based body moisturizer may clog the pores, thereby bringing about blackheads and pimples.

    Feel free to surf to my website; no No acne

  19. What specific challenges does Kuhn highlight regarding the implementation of new education standards, and what implications does this have for the teaching profession and educational policy? visit Telkom University