I’m a big fan of Diane Ravitch, and I view her as a huge advocate for teachers and children. I have to admit that this article hits on a plethora of important points: Teachers are adamant that the roll out is not going well, school chiefs need to listen to teachers as the roll out continues, and we need to scrutinize the Gates Foundation moneys–especially in what ways the foundation wishes to influence policy. But merely stating that a foundation donates money does not mean that groups have been bought off. Local education foundations donate money to school districts all the time, but that does not mean that they determine curriculum. As the common core assessments, overly expensive with charges of exploitation and profiteering hanging over them, roll out in the next few years, the national dialogue will certainly heat up. But just implying that the Gates Foundation donations are connected to profiteering in the test writing and tech device worlds is not a reason to ditch the standards. The standards will need to be tweaked. They will need to be revised. One does not just roll out something new and not make adjustments along the way. The Chiefs need to acknowledge this or doom the new standards to failure as they become mired in their inadequacies.
A major problem plaguing the roll out is definitely that administrators in schools haven’t a clue as to what “common core” really is or what it looks like. I see this on my campus daily. My principal thinks common core is student engagement, and it is really frustrating to have the leader of the school knowing less than the practitioners who may rely on him to help them with professional development. In the end though, the common core are nothing more than a set of standards–standards that shift our teaching strategies in different directions. The teaching strategies are NOT common core, as so many label them. By lumping the standard and the strategies to achieve the learning outcome together, we face the same danger that we currently do with overly scripted curricula. Teachers need to be given the freedom to explore which methods work best for reaching students, teaching them the outcome, connecting the material to real life, and so on.
For example, the common core standard to cite textual evidence in literary analysis lends itself to multiple strategies in the classroom–teaching annotation strategies, creating jigsaws around finding evidence from the text to support a different claim in each group, a discussion about where in real life we may be asked to provide evidence and what that skill looks like when applied outside of reading literature, and so many more.
I look forward to the dialogue, as should most teachers. For once, the spotlight will shift back to ESEA/NCLB testing mandates that the Obama Administration has done nothing to curtail, but has instead strengthened. The spotlight will focus on the inequality created by watered down standards in some states and more rigorous standards of others. The spotlight will shine on exceptional teaching strategies that focus on engaging students and facilitating learning–the guide on the side as opposed to the sage on the stage techniques. One doesn’t have to like common core to admit that it, thankfully, has created a place for education on the national stage again.