Once upon a time “Mary” grew older. Approaching the age of 16, it became legally permissible for her to drive a motor vehicle on the public, southern California roads. But she needed to pass two tests administered by the licensing agency, the state Department of Motor Vehicles, first.

Mary practiced hard to learn the rules of the road from a book. Because she was not yet of an age where practicing “behind the wheel” was deemed safe, all her learning was theoretical.

At age 15 ½ she took a written test to assess her knowledge, as distinct from her skill which would be tested later. The test was multiple choice and many of the options were silly so the answer was clear-enough, often. Though not always — some of the more important questions were tricky, with subtle differences distinguishing the choices. Passing would suggest, if not require, her to have learned the presented material.

Thus while not overwhelmingly rigorous, still the test did serve to winnow those who needed to study more from those who did not. And because of the inherent importance, danger and desirability of the subject matter, most kids took the whole exercise seriously regardless of the test and really applied themselves to learning.

There came a day when a politician, and a businessman, scrutinized the process.

The public decrier saw an opportunity to proclaim the test Insufficiently Rigorous for failing to prepare the child adequately for the responsibility ahead of her in life. It was suggested that others, elsewhere in the world might better prepare drivers than this state agency.

The solution imposed would be to double the questions on the test, and make them all very, very difficult. Indeed because there would be twice as many questions asked, with a newly imposed requirement to demonstrate statistical “spread” among answers, some questions would need to be drawn from material never presented to the student.

The academic justification for querying a subject not taught is that a rigorous learner must demonstrate ability to derive an answer from background knowledge de novo. So for example, a teen in southern California might be asked – “after driving a truck along a cold, high, mountain pass and stopping overnight, what problem might be anticipated on resuming travel in the morning”?

Very few young adults, and only those with specialized life-experience, would be likely to answer this question correctly. While it might distinguish one set of students from another, the way in which they might be distinguished would be unclear. Moreover, the way in which some would be able to answer the question and others not, would be irrelevant to the experiences ahead of this incipient southern California driver. The question queries material not relevant to the underlying purpose of the test.

This demonstrates two essential properties of a test, properly administered:

(1) It must show something identifiable and
(2) That which is identifiable, must be desirable to know about.

In failing to comply with these principles, it is the results of the test itself, rather than knowledge of the course material, that becomes the teaching endpoint. This is a pedagogical about-face. It is completely revolutionary.

Meanwhile, the avaricious man interjects: “I could offer my services to mediate this revolution. Because the New Educational Order collapses learning to an endpoint rather than a process, I could interject a tollbooth between student and license. If I were allowed to design the endpoint-test, and provide the materials that prepare for that endpoint, there will be great profit for one and all. Students will be funneled directly toward this proprietary endpoint by my copyrighted materials. Eureka!”

Herein lies the common tale of the Common Core as experienced by any common child.

When a test administered to a student reveals learning short of some understood standard, doubling down on the questions administered – either in difficulty or in quantity, never mind in both – will not advance the student’s learning. To the contrary, fiddling the downstream endpoint of a learning process will have no effect apart from undermining the process of, and confidence in, learning itself.

So what pedagogical purpose can possibly be performed in setting out Common Core tests far above the ken and understanding of pupils? It sows nothing but confusion and panic as students and educators alike scramble to instate tools “aligned” with this test. And in panic the avaricious man finds much opportunity. In panic the confused politician hurriedly enlists the snake oil salesman. In panic the disrespected student’s family loses faith in the process of learning.

Ahoy LAUSD 2013-14 families of Algebra I students! Look to your students’ Algebra I year-end assessment, administered by LAUSD on behalf of the State, written and assessed by Amplify Education, Inc., the division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. run by former NYC schools Chancellor, Joel Klein. That test does not reflect the algebra material your CA student studied, or learned, this year. Yet it will determine your child’s High School credit in the nominal subject, which never was, therefore, assessed.

Pay attention to the myths and tyranny imposed by this new CCSS (Common Core State Standards) regimen. It’s not all “just for practice”, not all with no effect, and not all to your child’s benefit, pedagogically or otherwise. Some children, in LAUSD, have had the goal posts of learning moved on them this very year. All the while that revolutionizing the protocol, and relabeling the endpoints of education, will never change the task of learning to keep your eyes on the road ahead.