Concerns With Common Core

Yes, there are lots of negatives being tossed around about Common Core and its impact on education and our country in general. I am not going to address the millions of dollars that will be lined in a whole host of pockets…none of which will be educators. In addition, I won’t bother spending time on the notion that standards are good or bad or that these particular standards were largely written be non-educators. And finally, I am not going to worry about the fact that the movement of Common Core is more political than educational. So…here are my three concerns with the implementation of the Common Core standards as it pertains to the classroom teacher.

First, the new Common Core standards are in fact better than some state standards…my state included. They are broad in scope and do allow for individualization by local districts and communities. In fact, there are many higher-order thinking skills addressed, which is a positive sign. However, my first concern is that we will take these new skills and try to reduce them to a bubble sheet test yet again. In addition to that, we will take those tests and use them as a tool to get rid of teachers and condemn schools to failure. Will the new tests in fact reflect the higher level skills or be watered down to drill and skill?

Another potential pitfall of Common Core implementation is the overall setup of our schools, specifically putting kids into grade levels based on age. Within these new standards they have laid out learning progressions that explain how a child should progress along various learning pathways. To me this sounds great. A step by step process of learning is what kids should have. Yet, our system is not set up to handle this. If a student has not yet reached a particular “step” in a learning pathway by the end of the school year, they will still be pushed up to the next grade. This is the equivalent of putting a kid on a ten speed bike before they have mastered a tricycle just because they get older. Does this make sense?

The final concern I have is the overall training provided for new and existing teachers, especially in the sciences. As the new ELA standards come out they are being infused into other areas such as Science and Social Science. While I agree that literacy skills need to be used in these other core classes, who is training these teachers? Are science teachers being trained on how to teacher literacy skills in their classes? Will these teachers be held accountable for teaching these skills as part of their evaluations?

While I am an eternal skeptic by nature, I am trying to give Common Core the benefit of the doubt. Yet, I feel as though we are putting the cart before the horse and not really thinking these things through all the way. What is more concerning is the fact that much of the educational so called reform, Common Core included, is being pushed by non-educators and businesses that stand to make a large amount of money. 


Anonymous said...

We'll see. I'm feeling a little leery as well as weary of all of this "standardization". It reminds me of going half way around the world to see new cultures, experience new foods... and finding Bedouins in traditional garb texting who knows who (on the phones bought for them by their king) while standing in line at the McDonalds. Somehow, it sounds like what "standardizing" may mean. Especially seeing the numerous testing that takes place brought to us by none other, the McDonalds of testing, Pearson. But... hope burns eternal! Oh.. and I teach all day kinder ... the new "burn out by 3rd grade" crowd... poor little guys.

Lisa Cooley said...

My concern is that the relentless march through standards doesn't leave room for pursuing interests or, God forbid, dropping those things a student finds unbearably dull. Standards-based teaching is supposed to leave more room for students to determine how it is learned and assessed, but it's still a train on tracks, and has to march from station to station.

What I need to see is that there is flexibility to jump around, skip ahead, slow down to dig deeper into something or hop to a different track entirely.

Teach Science Right said...

Being at a private school, we are adopting our own version of the Common Core Standards. Coming from my point of view, I think its a good thing. But thats mostly because since we're a private institution, we aren't bound by any State or Federal regulation - this has been both bad and good in the past. My school has been around for about 15 years and hasn't had any set standards laid out [bad]. Honestly, in the States that would never fly. But here in Korea, there are so many of these types of schools and the kids are still successful [good].

Its been great for us as we're working toward international accreditation, to have the Common Core standards as a reference, and something to gauge how we are meeting similar standards to other schools in the States. Taking a pretty in-depth view of those standards, I feel that it leaves plenty of room for classroom and subject-specific freedom.

And the literacy aspect in my area (science) I really don't find too challenging. They tend to be pretty basic, and things that I'm already holding my students accountable to.

Good thoughts here about proper evaluation of standardization. We need to remember that any form of standardization can be dangerous. As soon as we as teachers begin focusing on covering content, rather than inspiring and engaging students in the learning process, we begin to work against our goals.

Chris Mitchell

Anonymous said...

Being a primary teacher, I totally agree about pushing and grouping kids through grades based on age. If we all go to standards based assessments, we need to have the flexibility to group students based on what they need to experience to master the core. But after 37 years in this business, I will tell you that the concept will not fly.
Since we have been so standard driven and now "core" driven, the joy of learning is often removed from the "planning" stage and teachers need to make an effort to make school and learning come alive. It is a hard balance because pressure is being put on us to show student growth and everyone looks at data and not information anymore.

Josh Lenaburg said...

I work in a small class setting, 8:1:1, in an economically challenged county of New York. CCLS does NOT address our unique student population's needs. With an average IQ under 80, the majority of our students will not ever develop neurologically to the point where they can engage higher level critical thinking. Rather than prepare these students through functional literacy and consumer mathematics, these students are bound by CCLS. As a result, these students dropout or graduate with no relevant or useful skills. They generally are unemployable and doomed to a life of poverty dependent on social services. This, of course, perpetuates itself from generation to generation. The poverty class only continues to grow as does the achievement gap.

I agree with your nervousness over competent training. I am currently sitting in my third CCLS training of the year. It is my third intro and overview seminar. Surprise, it is the exact same material I've seen each of the previous times. How can my livelihood be so dependent on the incompetency of those that responsible for ensuring I'm highly qualified?

Mary Ann Reilly said...

The Common Core is part of a systematic approach to ensure dollars are spent in ways that profit a handful of companies first . These are the same companies whose CEOs were privileged to testify before Congress.

The ELA standards with the singular focus on close reading are an error. Allowing to non experts to author these shows arrogance. A sociocultural perspective was not included in any respect in the CC.

I have no doubt that the testing which accompanies the CC is what is most privileged and I imagine is the deep money maker for Pearson, McGraw Hill, ETS, and Achieve.

The national test along with national D units, national materials, and national curriculum will reduce learning to mediocrity in places where it is still excellent, and will continue the test only response that is already present in many city systems where there is a high concentration of economically disadvantaged children.