A recent Common Core-sympathetic article carried by the WSJ begins with an anecdote about a too-seldom mentioned potential upside of tougher standards: that fewer parents will need to pay for remedial courses when their kids reach college (“something parents of about a quarter of all New York students entering college now do”).
It’s a lot easier to say “Common Core implementation” than to do it.
But what really comes through in this article is that it’s not completely clear what “Common Core implementation” actually means. This is something I’ve been fretting about since my time at the New Jersey Department of Education.
Though the reporter and numerous sources quoted throughout the article use buzz words (“rigorous,” “complex texts,” “ready for college and career success,” “mapping backward,” “analytical reading and writing skills,” and “text-based instruction.”), their translation into real-life practice is garbled English at best, ancient Greek at worst.
It seems to me that many of the Common Core’s most strident defenders don’t understand or appreciate that state and local leaders don’t know exactly what they should be doing. That confusion trickles down to teachers, preparation programs, and lots of other players. In short, it’s a lot easier to say “Common Core implementation” than to do it.
This is why Checker Finn’s piece about “How the Common Core changes everything” is so valuable. And scary. Finn lists twenty
Keeping up with up with the inaccuracies and distortions in the Common Core debate can sometimes feel like the classic arcade game Whack-a-Mole. As soon as you finishing knocking down one half-truth or mischaracterization, another pops up somewhere else. Publishers have, for instance, scrambled to claim alignment when none exists or to actively co-opt the standards for their own ends. Now political ideologues have gotten into the game, adding a whole new level of difficulty.
Correcting inaccuracies about the Common Core is like playing Whack-A-Mole—only less fun.
Photo by Julia Rubinic.
The political opponents of the Common Core—like the self-interested publishers and consultants—are quick to make broad and often inaccurate claims about the new standards. Though their intent is different, the impact may be equally damaging, particularly since they hope to bury the standards entirely, not just make a buck off the coming wave of CCSS implementation. The great irony, though, is that, by pitching the Common Core as something that it isn’t, CCSS opponents may inadvertently end up promoting exactly the kind of content-less, skills-driven instruction that they claim to be fighting against.
Take, for example, Phyllis Schlafly. Godmother of the modern conservative advocacy movement, Schlafly burst onto the scene in the 1970s with her successful campaign
When charter schools first emerged twenty years ago, they represented a revolution, ushering in a new era that put educational choice, innovation, and autonomy front and center in the effort to improve our schools. While charters have always been very diverse in characteristics and outcomes, it wasn’t long before a particular kind of gap-closing, “No Excuses” charter grabbed the lion’s share of public attention. But in this rush to crown and invest in a few “winners,” have we turned our back on the push for innovation that was meant to be at the core of the charter experiment?
It’s become increasingly obvious that charters have hit a wall in their quest to put their students on the path to college.
Of course, the top charter management organizations got this level of attention the old fashioned way: they earned it. The best CMOs—like KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First—have done amazing work. The teachers work long hours and do—often quite literally—whatever it takes to give students the kinds of opportunities they’ve had.
But, while charters have made important strides, it’s become increasingly obvious that they’ve also hit a wall in their quest to put their students on the path to college. While the best among them have been able to get more and more students to hit proficiency targets, there are no charter schools—to my knowledge—that have figured out how, at scale, to prepare all students for the rigors of college and careers. Yet,
A famous workplace adage goes: “The boss is coming, look busy!” It is a recognition that far too often people are judged not just by what they produce, but by how hard they work to produce it.
Nearly every state is working hard to look busy, lest they be accused of not taking the Common Core seriously.
Many education reforms are designed to shift away from this thinking, placing the emphasis on outcomes instead of inputs, encouraging the use of objective data to drive judgments about performance, to shift the conversation to one grounded in genuine productivity and effectiveness. The crucial insight of these efforts is that management styles that prioritize “busy-ness” over effectiveness encourages people to make grand, often complicated plans that may not be well suited to drive the kind of change we need.
Yet, isn’t this exactly what we’re seeing in our rush to implement the Common Core?
Since its inception—and with the exception of the development of the actual K-12 expectations—the Common Core has encouraged haste. Four states (Kentucky, Hawaii, Maryland, and West Virginia) adopted the standards before they were even final.
Twenty states adopted them within one month of their release. All but six states had, in their Round 1 Race to the Top applications, developed plans to transition to the Common Core five months before the final CCSS were released. And districts have begun to align curriculum and instruction to the standards with very little guidance about
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.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Core Knowledge Blog
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- Education Next Blog
- Getting Smart
- Gotham Schools
- Jay P. Greene
- Joanne Jacobs
- National Journal Education Blog
- NCTQ Pretty Darn Quick
- NCTQ Teacher Quality Bulletin
- Ohio Education Gadfly
- Politics K-12
- Quick and the Ed
- Rick Hess Straight Up
- The Corner
- The Hechinger Report
- Tim Shanahan on Literacy