Common Core - This Too Shall Pass


Everywhere you look in education you see the words Common Core. It is plastered on the covers of textbook and workbooks being pushed by publishers. You see it infecting conference session titles and keynote speeches. It has literally taken over the conversation in education and every facet of it. Yet, nobody really knows what it means or what it will look like when it fully takes over public education in the states that have chosen to toss their eggs into that basket.

I have my reservations about Common Core in terms of what it may or may not do in by way of lasting impacts on public education. In many cases the standards are better than existing ones that states have been using. On the other hand, it has yet to be tested and proven to be any more effective than current practice. A lot remains to be seen but the one thing I do know for sure is the Common Core will come and it will go. As with any other initiative in education, just wait long enough and it will run it’s course and be replaced by something new. In many cases that “new” is just something old in a new package where someone other than a teacher will make millions off it.

With that being said, I am not getting worked up about Common Core and how it may or may not transform teaching and learning in our country. One of the big pushes is the notion that we will have a core set of standards that will be common. Yet anyone that has ever worked in a school knows there is no such thing as common. Every school and every classroom has its own nuances and contextual pieces that make it anything but common. 

It is this very reason that I chose not to focus on Common Core and obsess over every new textbook, conference session or CCSS aligned resource. Rather, I would like to focus on the true core pieces of teaching that should be common regardless of the standards. Let’s encourage teachers to look at effective questioning skills rather than teaching to a bubble sheet test? Can we move away from obsessing over the right textbook but show teachers how to use the infinite resources available at our fingertips in the technology rich world our kids live in? Instead of ballrooms filled full of conference attendees looking for the top ten iPad apps for CCSS, let’s promote discussions about what learning looks like and how many of us are getting it wrong?

I have been in education a relatively short amount of time yet I have been around long enough to know that things like Common Core will come and go. What should really matter is the dialogue we have about teaching and learning and the core beliefs we hold to be true. Programs such as Common Core will always be around in some form or fashion but the people in the classroom will be the only constant and therefore should be our focus.  It is time we shifted the conversation away from inevitable top down programs and started talking about bottom up beliefs about what is best for the learning of kids in our classrooms. 

10 comments:

benjamingilpin said...

Josh, you're exactly right, schools don't have a "common". I also believe the odds are in favor of your prediction that the Common Core will eventually be replaced.

I'm not against the Common Core, I believe it has positive intentions. I do find it bizarre that education seems like a constant testing ground for new ideas and philosophy's. The next 2 years will be very interesting. For Michigan, we are about 18-24 months from Common Core testing. I'm not a standardized testing fan in any way, with that being said, I still have to help my school prepare.

I enjoyed your post, thanks Josh.

stacie dunn said...

Well said! I have read numerous pieces on Common Core, & very much identified with the feelings & ideas articulated here. I view CCSS as a modality...encouraging higher level questioning, wide-range application of skill, & usage of meaningful technology. While I am neither for nor against CCSS, I would hope to see educators learn & grow from it...as we facilitate the learning process with our kiddos! Thanks for sharing!

Shira Leibowitz said...

Josh,
Your desire to focus on the true core pieces of teaching that should be common regardless of the standards is among the most poignant statements I have heard in discussion of common core. I might just shift the statement to a desire, at least for me, to focus on the true core pieces of learning; some of which will be common and some of which will be unique for particular students. I struggle with embracing high standards for all, while providing the opportunity to personalize for each. Your perspective helps me to better articulate my own questions. Thanks!

Aaron Maurer said...

Great post! I too agree with many of your ideas. I, personally, don't like common core. My wife on the other hand loves it. It has kickstarted communication in her math department and forcing a few teachers to change and adopt after refusing to do so. Perhaps the positive is forcing teachers who have lost the passion to get better or get out. As you stated it will come and go and be replaced by another hot topic buzzword that really just cycles what has happened in the past.

Matt Gerberick said...

Great assessment of the common core. Teaching and learning should always be about preparing students for their future with problem based learning opportunities that encourage high level thinking. To say that the Common Core (or any other standards) can do that is fantasy. The idea that "standards" will make learning identical across the nation, a state, or even a school building are unrealistic. Such a belief does not benefit students in any way. Unfortunately, there are too many other factors at work ($$$) that continue to perpetuate the use of "standards" and high stakes testing.

Brandi said...

EXACTLY! I've only been teaching four years, and our curriculum has changed three times-QCC, GPS, and now Common Core. All the standards in the world, common or otherwise won't make a difference if the teacher in the room doesn't understand the difference he/she makes in each child's life.

John Spencer said...

I see this in the techie world. Remember WebQuests? They were going to fix it all. Then it was one to one and then BYOD and now coding, just to name a few. Maybe add MOOCs to the list. There's always that big trend. I think a few years ago, Twitter was supposed to save education, too.

And yet . . . here we are, realizing again that the most powerful force in the classroom is the teacher.

Mrs Fenger said...

I agree completely. I haven't gotten too worried about the common core, since I've already been through an awful lot of curriculum changes in my teaching career. In Michigan, we rolled out the Grade Level Content Expectations and High School Content Expectations 6 years ago. Those were going to fix everything. However, my current sixth graders started with those in kindergarten and are now going to be moving to Common Core. They didn't even make it one generation of our curriculum before we're changing again.
That is the way of education...

Paul France said...

sToo often we focus on the "what" behind teaching and not necessarily the "how." We need to remember that it isn't the resource or the "app" that does the teaching; it is the teacher and the manner in which he or she questions and instructs kids.

Mark Basi said...

I agree with what Aaron wrote about kickstarting communication in the Math department and forcing teachers to change. I work in a school where the teachers have, essentially, given up. The Common Core is forcing them to take a look at the curriculum and their own teaching practices and realizing that they have to change and do things differently so that their students will be successful. We have already seen positive impacts of the CCSS in my building. Learning is (finally) taking place.