“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” ― André Gide
As we’ve said numerous times before, for the vast majority of states, adoption of the Common Core standards was an enormous improvement. (Click for Fordham’s review of each state’s standards and the Common Core.) It’s equally clear that we have an enormous challenge on our hands to ensure that the Common Core is implemented in a way that makes the most of these stronger and more rigorous standards. Change is hard but Common Core, correctly implemented, has the potential to amp up expectations and instruction across American classrooms.
I’ve already posted about the danger of curriculum publishers co-opting the Common Core to promote their own (relatively unchanged) materials. But there’s a second, and potentially even more troubling challenge that lies ahead: a resistance among teachers to changing their instruction.
As the time comes to start implementing Common Core some teachers are starting to dig in their heels.
Of course, for teachers, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. There has been no shortage of curriculum fads and reforms that have demanded instructional changes and promised improvements, but yielded very little in the way of student achievement gains. It’s no wonder, then, that as the time comes to start implementing Common Core some teachers are starting to dig in their heels.
Valerie Strauss, a Washington Post blogger who has created a cottage industry out
Paul Gross penned an editorial in yesterday’s Gadfly Weekly on the neglect of evolution in many state standards that’s definitely worth a read. While Dr. Gross notes that science standards are falling short in general,
Particularly dismaying is how rarely state standards indicate that evolution has anything to do with us, Homo sapiens. Even states with thorough coverage of evolution, like Massachusetts, avoid linking that controversial term with ourselves. Only four states—Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Rhode Island—discuss human evolution in their current standards. This isn’t just a Bible Belt issue. Even the bluest of blue states don’t expect their students to know that humans and apes share ancestry.
Several weeks ago, Education First—a national education policy and strategic consulting firm—released the first in what will be a series of three reports aimed at providing guidance to states as they work to develop Common Core implementation plans. Yesterday, Education First and Achieve together released the second report, a “Common Core State Standards Implementation Rubric and Self-Assessment Tool.” While imperfect, this rubric is a useful tool that can help push states thinking about standards implementation.
State policy leaders should commit these differences to memory.
Among the most useful elements of the report is Table 1, which outlines the “key instructional shifts” that ELA and math teachers will face as they begin to shift instruction to the Common Core. Drawn from advice produced by Student Achievement Partners, the guidance is simple, but more clearly outlines the essential differences between the Common Core and most existing state standards than most of the “crosswalk” comparisons that state Departments of Education have undertaken to date. On the ELA side, for instance, the authors explain that the CCSS will focus on:
- Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational texts
- Reading and writing grounded in evidence from text
- Regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary
This very clearly and succinctly highlights some of the key differences between the Common Core and existing state standards. State policy leaders should commit it to memory.
And, even more helpfully, the authors frequently hearken back to these “instructional shifts” and push states to focus their curriculum and professional development efforts on helping teachers address those shifts in their classrooms. As states move to implement
The Pioneer Institute—no friends of the Common Core to begin with—released a report this week claiming that it will cost the nation $16 billion to implement the new standards. (If you read the full text, the authors frequently note that this is, in their opinion, a wild underestimate.)
The astronomical estimate is not entirely surprising. If you want to scare cash-strapped states away from moving forward with their Common Core plans, it’s not hard to attach a frighteningly large price tag to implementation. After all, the purpose of standards is to create the foundation upon which the entire education system is built. So, obviously, changing standards must mean knocking down the house, re-pouring the foundation, and starting again.
Implementing Common Core doesn't necessarily mean knocking down the house and starting from scratch.
Photo by Concrete Forms.
Well, not quite.
Yes, implementing the Common Core will be costly. No one disputes that. Aligning materials, instruction, and assessment around new standards cannot be done on the cheap if it’s going to be done well.
On the other hand, let’s pretend neither that implementation of the new standards needs to look exactly like implementation of a state’s previous standards, nor that every dollar spent on CCSS needs to be “new money.”
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
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