The Common Core State Standards
We’ve all heard about “Common Core”, right? But exactly WHAT have we heard … We’ve heard it’s good, we’ve heard it’s bad, we’ve heard it all. All of this conflicting information is what makes it that much harder to figure out exactly what are the truths and falsehoods are behind the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). When I first decided to write this post, my intent was to take a stand on the topic of data privacy issues resulting from CCSS data mining practices. After spending way too much time trying to unravel the maze of conflicting opinions about every single aspect of CCSS, I’ve concluded that there is no conclusion. Depending on which website you visit, who you talk to, or which media outlet you favor, there is one common, or should I say (pun intended?) core theme; the other side is misinforming you.
What I do know is factual:
- Most people agree that all children should receive a quality education
- Most people agree that, when needed, educational standards should be raised
- The National Governor’s Association (NGA) developed the Common Core State Standards
- There were teachers, parents and education experts involved in the development process
- The assumption is that by setting national standards, all teachers, parents and students will have the same expectations and guidelines
- Not all states have adopted the CCSS
- States received substantial financial incentives from the Federal government to adopt the CCSS
- States did not ask voters to decide on adopting the Common Core standards
- The Federal government is not formally overseeing CCSS
- Special Education students are not part of CCSS
- An organization called Common Core State Standards Initiative, under the direction of (I think) the NGA and the Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) is spearheading the initiatives. I say ‘I think’, because other than two tiny logos on an interior page, this organization never really identifies itself
And that’s pretty much where the agreement ends!
Depending on how you view it, the Common Core Standards are either the best, most innovative educational initiative of the last one hundred years. Like a Savior, it will FINALLY deliver American students to the Promised Land of educational excellence. Either that or it’s an expensive, over reaching flawed concept poised to destroy the very fabric of the American educational system by stripping parents and districts of local control over curriculum, suppressing the will of students to formulate independent thoughts, and the mining and selling of student data to the highest bidder. And both sides have the figures to back it up; hence the confusion.
As parents, citizens, and taxpayers, it is imperative that we take a moment and soak in what the Common Core Standards are about and form an opinion, then take a stand. Now, before they become entrenched in the curriculum. My personal feeling is that anytime the government gets involved in any process it instantly becomes twice as complicated and three times as expensive. So for that reason alone, I will say I am more inclined NOT to favor adopting the Common Core Standards. I also think that just because something is a good idea, doesn’t always mean you should do it. I’m sure in your lifetime at one point or another you’ve experienced the unintended consequences from something someone thought was “the right thing to do”.
Some of the other reasons I am not fully aboard the CCSS train are:
- There’s an organization for the standards, but no one overseeing anything
- CCSS is very expensive to implement and causes me to wonder about how school districts and states will carry out this without raising taxes
- CCSS relies too heavily on technology and doesn’t leave enough room for the human side of things
- Even teachers seem unsure of the CCSS process
- Parents/taxpayers are either completely overwhelmed by and/or in the dark about CCSS
- Many teachers don’t feel ready to teach the CCSS
- Takes parents and the community too far out of the educational process
- After reviewing some of the materials, the way some concepts are presented and the subtle steering of thought processes concerns me
- I’m uncomfortable with the amount of personal, non-educational, and educational data being collected on students, where it is being stored, and mostly, what will happen to that data
- Too much emphasis (70/30 balance) will be on the reading of informational texts (as if fiction doesn’t contain information) and away from teaching classic literature
- There is less emphasis on critical, independent thinking and more on a Pavlovian like regurgitation of concepts and applications deemed appropriate in the standards
- There is A LOT of testing
- The standards do not mandate the teaching of cursive handwriting. One could argue that none of the standards is “mandated”, but if states accepted the Federal money, they agreed to implement the standards, and there is no standard for students to learn to write in cursive. We will one day have an entire generation who will be unable to read the Constitution, public records, or other documents written before the use of printing presses
Recently, I read that a number of states who had originally signed on to the Common Core Standards (I guess all that “Race to the Top” Stimulus money was too hard to resist.) are now trying to back out of it, or backing out of portions of it, such as the data collection or testing aspects. It makes me wonder how effective the program will be in the end if we just end up with a patchwork quilt of interpretation and compliance. Also, a number of organizations have sprung up, whose mission it is to shut down the Common Core Standards in their state. Back in 2011, a Mary Blow, a teacher from New York, wrote an excellent blog expressing her concerns with the Common Core Standards. Many of her concerns and frustrations are just as valid today, and why others continue advocating that we at least take a step back, give districts more time to get the technology in place, and do a better job of orienting and training teachers before the roll out.
I’m also skeptical about Corporate America’s push to get CCSS rolled out. I look at the many corporations who are overeager cheerleaders for these initiatives and I wonder just what they have to gain. I say follow the money and you will see exactly where it leads. (Photo Credit: the Hampton Institute)
I must a libertarian at heart, and I can say that I am so glad that my kids, a senior in high school and a college sophomore, won’t be guinea pigs (New Math, anyone?) in this latest educational reform experiment. I don’t believe that having the State and Federal (they can protest all they want about not being involved, but I won’t believe them) government micromanaging educational standards is the best thing for teachers, districts, parents and most importantly students.