I’m a primary source kind of
gal, and my coursework at Indiana University’s School of Library and
Information Science (and ensuing Masters in Library Science) makes me a killer
on the Google. I decided to read, for myself, the originating document posted
Common Core State Standards Initiative
Web site. Looking over the Introduction (June 2, 2010) and Key
Considerations for the English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social
Studies, Science and Technical Subjects document, the good intentions of the
document are evident.
Good Intention #1: A
“The Standards are
intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards
will be revised accordingly”
You may have read the Washington Post “The
Answer Sheet” post on America’s
Next Education ‘Crisis’ – and Who Benefits. Valerie Strauss looks at who really benefits
from the public discourse in education these days and lands firmly with the
for-profit businesses selling curriculum, textbooks, consulting, and data
warehousing software. The pavement cracks under the cash load. How can a
document be “living” when an entire industry is evolving on a static
document? The textbooks, supplemental Web sites, curriculum pacing guides,
webinars… are all being designed around the Standards created and taken off
life support. Let’s not kid ourselves; the Common Core is not a living document.
It died the day the money fell from the luminous Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress
(K-PREP) data enhanced sky.
Good Intention #2: A Focus
on Results Rather Than Means
“Teachers are thus
free to provide students with whatever tools and knowledge their professional
judgment and experience identity as most helpful for meeting the goals set out
in the Standards”
Contrary to what
some would have you believe,
the majority of teachers I have worked with over the past 20 years have cared
deeply about students, spending long hours planning activities to meet learning
objectives and personalizing experiences
for individual students.
The Goal #3 of the PARCC
framework in Indiana looks simple enough. The test will support these amazing
educators in four ways :
• Instructional Tools to Support Implementation: to provide “content frameworks, sample assessment
tasks and model instructional units.” In other words, a fully canned curriculum
that anyone could dish out to young people
• Professional Development Models: These =include PD on implementation of the new
assessment and interpreting test data.
• Timely Student Achievement Data: This means aligned performance-based assessments
throughout the year.
Training to Support ‘Peer-to-Peer’ Training”: This is to train K-12 educators to use the
instructional tools handed down by the PARCC folks (i.e. the canned curriculum
The Actual Pavement
Here’s the thing: the Common Core Standards are
not bad. As a jumping off point for the living discussion of best educational
practices, I’m really okay with them. The authors of the standards were acting
in good faith, but they never saw the jackhammer of market forces coming to
bear on education. This document will become a rally point for those looking to
make a profit.
In the 45 states and 3 territories
that have adopted the Common Core, the conversation is not about educational
standards. It’s about textbooks, testing, and budgetary concerns for hiring all
those consultants. This isn't about educating children. This isn't about
developing better teachers. This isn't about improving and innovating
schools. This is about making money in for profit companies.
Jen LaMaster is the Director of Faculty Development
at the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.