One Member’s Concerns About Common Core

Over the past year, I have been a member of the English Language Arts team in my district, looking at ways to best implement Common Core.  The collaboration has been great, as I have learned what and how my colleagues teach.  However, even after a year of working with the Common Core standards, I am stuck with more questions than answers on the topic.

Once I got past the initial apprehension about yet another piece of education reform, I saw there were some worthwhile goals for my students:

  • “ Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text…”
  • “Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text…”

Citing evidence to support analysis and determining themes and analyzing their development are good things to teach high school students.  In fact, there are many standards that are part of the Common Core which I think are educationally sound.  Looking at these standards with my colleagues was encouraging.

However, as the year progressed, despite good leadership from the curriculum department and dedication from teachers, I got frustrated.

I thought about the money our district was spending on Common Core implementation; about $60,000 on stipends and substitute teachers when teachers were given release time.  Although it’s a small portion of our multi-million dollar budget, I wonder: Is this really the best way to spend money as we continue to cut positions district-wide?  If the state really values this program, why can’t legislators adequately fund it?

I thought about all the dedicated professionals who I was working with, realizing that in many ways, we have already been teaching kids the educationally sound standards that are part of the Common Core. Why do we need this new initiative to move teachers towards standards that we already teach to?

The last several months of our meetings have focused on developing PARCC-style assessments. This has raised several questions in my mind.

  • Is Common Core inextricably linked to PARCC assessments?
  • Why are PARCC assessments better than other types of tests?
  • How can we develop PARCC-style assessments when PARCC isn’t releasing sufficient models for teachers to use?
  • Isn’t PARCC just another “high-stakes” test?

I’ve tried to find answers, a search that has led me to outspoken grassroots education reformers like Diane Ravitch and The Network for Public Education.  Among the education bloggers across the country there is significant skepticism, to say the least.  It’s made me ask questions about the education companies who are creating assessments and resources; wondering is Common Core more about making money for Pearson and less about improving academics?

The more I think about Common Core, the more questions I develop.

  • Even if Common Core is educationally sound, are states rushing to adopt it without adequate funding and framework?
  • Will adoption of Common Core standards make it “easier” to evaluate one teacher’s performance against another, since they are all supposed to be teaching the same standards?
  • Will the Common Core reduce creativity and autonomy in my lessons and my classroom?
  • Do teachers at other grade levels and in other subjects feel like the Common Core standards are educationally sound?

Later this week, as we wrap up the school year, I’ll be sitting down with my colleagues, determining how to best proceed with our work on Common Core over the summer.  We will probably steer clear of the big philosophical questions in the hope that, as the Common Core is rolled out across the state and the nation, the answers will become apparent and our efforts will result in curriculum and teaching practices that better prepare our students for life.

By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association

 


The June 2013 edition of Ohio Schools reported on the Spring 2013 Representative Assembly’s  actions endorsing Ohio’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics; calling for sufficient resources to implement the standards with fidelity; and demanding a moratorium on teaching to and testing on the current, outdated standards because it detracts from effective implementation of the CCSS.
 
In this posting, Dan Greenberg shares his experience learning about and planning for implementation of the Common Core English language arts standards.  His words reflect hope, puzzlement and concern, not unlike those of many of Ohio’s educators who are weary of the old standards and testing regime, hopeful for better days in the classroom, and suspicious of unexamined assumptions and ulterior motives.  Woven among his reflections, Dan poses twelve questions that invite response.  They may be grouped as follow:
 
Why is there a movement to get states to implement the CCSS, and do the CCSS advocates intend to pony up the resources necessary for the work to be done well by students, educators and local and  state school systems?

  • Is this really the best way to spend money as we continue to cut positions district-wide?
  • If the state really values this program, why can’t they adequately fund it?
  • Is Common Core more about making money for Pearson and less about improving academics?
  • Even if Common Core is educationally sound, are states rushing to adopt it without adequate funding and framework?

In what ways and to what extent are the CCSS consistent with the aim of public education in and for a social and political democracy?

  • Why do we need this new initiative to move teachers towards standards that we already teach to?
  • Will the Common Core reduce creativity and autonomy in my lessons and my classroom?
  • Do teachers at other grade levels and in other subjects feel like the Common Core standards are educationally sound?
  • Will adoption of Common Core standards make it “easier” to evaluate one teacher’s performance against another, since they are all supposed to be teaching the same standards?

Are more and different assessments necessary; and, if they are, will they support or interfere with the work of students, educators and education systems?

  • Is Common Core inextricably linked to PARRC assessments?
  • Why are PARRC assessments better than other types of tests?
  • How can we develop PARRC-style assessments when PARRC isn’t releasing sufficient models for teachers to use?
  • Isn’t PARRC just another “high stakes” test?

 

We encourage everyone to respond in the comments below.

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