If you’re in a Common Core state, chances are there is a raucous coalition of folks desperately seeking to abandon ship. I can’t even begin to fully explain this phenomenon (I’m hoping you, the awesome community of Teaching the Core, will help fill in my gaps), but I can tell you that the actors in this drama range from conspiracy theorists to edu-profiteers to homeschooling groups.
In my mitten state of Michigan, legislators preceded their summer break with the approval of a budget to block funding for CCSS implementation. It’s not a done deal yet — a subcommittee has been formed to consider the issue over the summer — but it has gotten me thinking about why I will and won’t care if the Common Core becomes a thing of the past in MI.
Why I Won’t Care
First of all, I teach in a district that has affirmed its commitment to implementing the Common Core regardless of which way the state goes. I praise the brave and common-sensical folks who have made this decision. While I’m the first person to point out the shortcomings of the CCSS (e.g., there are still too many of them; too few teachers and administrators have actually read them, partly because they are too long; they seem destined to be bound to highly expensive standardized tests), they are, as a whole, a vast improvement on the wish list, subject-separated standards of the past. In the Common Core, we have a shared language across content areas for improving the verbal competence (i.e., literacy) of our students.
Secondly, I’ve never much cared about standards or what the state does in terms of them. As a teacher, I am about promoting long-term student flourishing; in other words, I want my students to live choice-filled lives. This driving mission will always come before what the state or standards dictate. Frankly, the Common Core just makes a helluva lot more sense to me than the behemoth standards wish lists that my state produced on its own. I can wrap my head around the Common Core; I can read the anchor standards in a sitting with a group of colleagues, and together we can pare them down into something focused enough to really work.
Why I Will Care
One reason I’ll care is because so much of the Common Core rhetoric is based on misinformation, scaremongering, and anger. (Michigan offers a great fact sheet here.) When the populace is unable to read, write, speak, and think for itself, democracy cries out, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!” I have had commenters tell me that the Common Core advances a left wing agenda to brainwash my kids. When I ask them where that agenda is evidenced in the standards document, they are silent. Frankly, Common Core debate, at least online, has become too much the domain of trolls and too little the domain of thoughtful, literate, civil folks like those who make up the Teaching the Core community of life dominators (you guys rock).
Another reason I’ll care is because babies are getting thrown out with bathwater. What I mean is I am entirely in support of unfunding the standardized testing that aims to go along with the Common Core (in my state, Smarter Balanced). I’d be happy to unfund that until it’s tested out elsewhere and proven to 1) work, and 2) prove reliable and valid. I see the value in common assessments across departments, districts, and even states and the nation. The objective, comparative information they can give us is valuable for improving our craft. But when the assessments are high stakes, when they take up an inordinate amount of time, and when they don’t yield valuable information for teachers and students… well, then they don’t make sense and aren’t worth the billions spent on them.
The standards aren’t the problem; the tests are. The standards just set some great goals for college/career readiness. Why throw them out?
Take it home, Johnny
Some people (including me) have laughed at the idea that, if the legislature stays its course, I will run a Common Core blog in a state that has abandoned the Common Core. It is kind of funny 😉
But honestly, Teaching the Core has always been about more than the Common Core. This is a community of high-will, highly passionate teachers, administrators, and stakeholders who simply want to get to the bottom of things. We don’t always agree on everything, but we damn well agree on the importance of doing education better. We agree that long-term student flourishing is a worthy goal. And, in general, we agree that large amounts of reading, writing, thinking, and talking are a great way to get there.