Last spring, students, parents, and teachers in New York schools responded to new Common Core tests developed by Pearson with outcries against their length, difficulty, and inappropriate content. Yet “college readiness” is about to become the new AYP (adequate yearly progress) by which schools will be ranked. Not everyone who gets a menu can pay for the meal. So the court tied New Jersey’s core curriculum standards to the most equitable school funding mandates in the country. According to teacher educator Nancy Carlsson-Paige: “In all, there were 135 people on the review panels for the Common Core.
The substance of the standards themselves is also, in a sense, top down. To arrive at “college- and career-ready standards,” the Common Core developers began by defining the “skills and abilities” they claim are needed to succeed in a four-year college. These changes include: A 10-year experiment in the use of federally mandated standards and tests called No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that has been almost universally acknowledged as a failure. And it will take far more than standards and tests to make college affordable, accessible, and attainable for all. Today everything about the Common Core, even the brand name—the Common Core State Standards—is contested because these standards were created as an instrument of contested policy.
The achievement gaps Common Core is supposed to narrow grew larger. Teachers and principals complained about the disruptive nature of the testing process and many parents encouraged their children to opt out. The Lure of the Common Core Last winter, the Rethinking Schools editorial board held a discussion about the Common Core; we were trying to decide how to address this latest trend in the all-too-trendy world of education reform.
The adoption of test-based teacher evaluation frameworks in dozens of states, largely as a result of federal mandates. Only about 30 percent of students were deemed “proficient” based on arbitrary cut scores designed to create new categories of failure. This is not just cynical speculation. It is a reasonable projection based on the history of the NCLB decade, the dismantling of public education in the nation’s urban centers, and the appalling growth of the inequality and concentrated poverty that remains the central problem in public education.
Whatever potentially positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what schools should teach and children should learn has repeatedly been undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests. The Common Core meltdown may not take that long. After bullshit banter,The suits slip out, sipbad coffee, fill out rubricson clipboards. We close classroom doors,Proceed to spin magicuncommonly connectedat the core. – Maureen Geraghty Maureen Geraghty teaches at Reynolds Learning Academy in Fairview, Oregon. The curriculum and assessments our schools and students need will not emerge from this process.
Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year, in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. The idea that by next year Common Core tests will start labeling kids in the 3rd grade as on track or not for college is absurd and offensive.
Not a single one of them was a K–3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.” Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results. And I use the word marketing advisedly, because another defining characteristic of the Common Core project is rampant profiteering.
Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. The feedback groups had 35 participants, almost all of whom were university professors. But, seen in the full context of the politics and history that produced it—and the tests that are just around the bend—the implications of the Common Core project look quite different.
Many of Common Core’s myths and claims have already lost credibility with large numbers of educators and citizens. We have more than a decade of experience with the negative and unpopular results of imposing increasing numbers of standardized tests on children and classrooms. Although all these concerns were raised, we also found that teachers in different districts and states were having very different experiences with the Common Core. These same requirements were part of the Race to the Top program, which turned federal education funds into competitive grants and promoted the same policies, even though they have no track record of success as school improvement strategies. Viewed in isolation, the debate over the Common Core can be confusing; who doesn’t want all students to have good preparation for life after high school?
The Common Core, like NCLB before it, is failing the funding credibility test before it’s even out of the gate. But the bipartisan coalition that passed NCLB had collapsed and gridlock in Congress made revising it impossible. So U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, with dubious legal justification, made up a process to grant NCLB waivers to states that agreed to certain conditions. Nearly every educational product now comes wrapped in the Common Core brand name. There were teachers in Milwaukee who had endured years of scripted curriculum and mandated textbooks.
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