Common Core: The good, the bad, and the ugly
This weekend I was a part of a panel presentation at NSBA called “New Opportunities Presented by the Common Core: Deeper Learning, Open Educational Resources, and Increases in Long-Term Student Success.”
Among the main points of this presentation were:
- The Common Core standards offer a unique opportunity for schools to examine the interconnected realms of standards, curriculum, assessment, and professional development, and hopefully, to improve learning.
- Common Core represents a significant change. If you think you have implemented Common Core and your classrooms don’t look substantially different than they did before, you haven’t really implemented Common Core. (Related points: Cross-walk documents and superficial alignments are not the best tools to realize the benefits of this change.)
- New assessments are coming in 2014. They too will be very different. We need to explore how students are being prepared for these assessments and, of course, for the real world.
I feel a certain amount of sadness that most educators seem to view Common Core as yet another worthless series of hoops they are being asked to jump through, rather than as an opportunity to do the kind of deeper learning that many of us feel is missing from classrooms.
One of my concerns about Common Core is that many districts seem to be implementing the new standards very quickly, possibly without considering all the opportunities and ramifications. New instructional materials are being purchased hastily. Professional development and planning is inadequate.
In the audience of school board members I spoke with, approximately two-thirds said that they have already implemented or are well into implementing these new standards. Many are doing this without being aware of the forthcoming new assessments and without thorough thought about related curriculum and instructional materials issues.
For example, at a time in which many districts are making large curriculum purchases, might it be a good time to think about digital content? New ways to involve teachers? Etc.
As we discussed these issues, there was a fair amount of discontent in the audience about the current state of assessment. Teachers are not afforded the professionalism to do what they know is best for students. Charter schools are often lauded without being held to the same standards. Deeper learning is not happening in many classrooms. Many new mandates are unfunded. There was plenty of unhappiness and blame to go around.
But perhaps it is time to put aside the blame and start doing some things that we all believe are best for our students.
This point in time might be the best opportunity in decades to look deeply at standards, curriculum, assessment, and the professional role of our teachers — it is simply too important to rush through or not do to the best of our abilities.