Sunday, March 17, 2013

What's Your Problem With the Common Core?

"So what is your problem with the Common Core? I get why you don't like APPR and standardized testing, but the Common Core is just a guideline and there's a lot of good in it. Doesn't it make sense for schools and that the National Writing Project (NWP) to get behind it? What's your problem?"

I should start with the real name: The Common Core State Standards. The word "State" is a red herring put there to make it feel as if these things are localized. States can insert a small percentage of standards, but for the most part the standards are common across all the states. "State" also implies that these weren't imposed by the federal government when in fact they were. States were free to decline the standards but would then be ineligible for Race to the Top money. Extortion is not a real choice. These aren't state standards, they are federal standards.

I despise the word "standards" in US education. Standards equals standardization which demands standardized testing and that's good for the testing business but lousy for learning. To standardize we have to move toward teaching the same things because the kids will be tested on those things. The tests will follow a schedule so doesn't it make sense for everyone in every state to learn the same things at the same time in the same way? You bet your ass it does.

I want my daughters' educations to be anything but common. I don't want much testing fouling up their day. They should be creating and investigating, not being assessed and measured. But the situation is reversed for them, especially this year as schools run scared. The testing is about the efficacy of their teachers. The Common Core is not elevating their learning experiences, it is narrowing teaching techniques as teachers scramble to insure high scores on exams that come one after another after another.

As a parent, teacher, and leader in education I can't support this. Learning requires local control, teacher leaders, safety, and the freedom to follow where ideas take us. The Common Core and all that flows from it (testing, standardization, APPR) steer in the opposite direction.

I'm a member of the National Writing Project, a band of teacher leaders focused on teachers-teaching-teachers locally and nationally. The NWP helps teachers share and create, it preserves the wisdom of experienced teaches who would otherwise be retired out of the system,  and it has shown respect for teachers, students, parents, administrators, and the school as a whole. The NWP has led the way in thinking about learning.

My problem with the NWP is that for the past few years we have become followers of the Common Core in hopes that it will win us some money. We have tacitly endorsed standardized curriculum, a torrent of new standardized testing, and top-down control of education. I can't get behind that.

I know that I'm pissing in the wind. The Common Core has already squashed the school with APPR and standardized testing. My options are to go along or push back. I'll keep pushing until I quit teaching.

I thought that the NWP would push back as well. So far, we have not. Instead, the teachers in Seattle, the people gathering with Diane Ravitch, and the small group of parents I meet when we pick up our children ard doing the work and making the noise while the NWP continues to chase the money. I understand and sympathize with the money chase. Hell, I haven't quit my job either. Still, I thought we stood for something more. That's my problem and this writing is my solution. That's why I'll keep pushing back, keep agitating in school and in the writing project, and keep writing on.