Monday, February 20, 2012

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. 
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