Friday, September 7, 2012

What I'd Like to See

. . . is some kind of real discussion of the Common Core Standards, instead of something like this:
"One thing that the Common Core addresses is quality versus quantity," said Dr. Nicholas Jankoviak, coordinator of federal programs for Paragould School District. "With Arkansas Frameworks we're talking about student learning expectations, with Common Core, we're talking about standards." Jankoviak said Common Core would also better prepare students for college and career readiness and would provide a national standard for students who may move from one state to another. "So what you have is a child from Michigan coming to Arkansas and in Michigan they have a set of standards they're working with," Jankoviak said. "Then when they move to Arkansas, they find that it is much more rigorous here. So that child in Michigan was not adequately prepared for what takes place in Arkansas."
Or this:
". . . the program will be tougher and more comprehensive, and is expected to better prepare students for life beyond the district. “It’s a more rigorous program, and the standards are designed so all students, when they graduate from high school, will be college and career ready,” Smith said. “People around the state are very excited about this because it is a strategic commitment to raising the standards and bringing consistency to the educational program."
(Both mentioned by Catherine Gewertz in Curriculum Matters at EdWeek.)

Rarely do I see anyone write about or hear anyone talk about the Common Core Standards who has read through not just the standards themselves, but all the ancillary materials.

Do the Common Core Standards actually address quality over quantity? No, not really. Does alignment with the Common Core Standards guarantee a more rigorous or even just a more consistent educational program? No, not at all. That would be impossible.

It's all in the implementation. Even the best, most comprehensive standards are meaningless unless sound instruction lays a solid foundation and sound assessments are used to evaluate progress. A thoughtful approach to curriculum and assessment design could address quality over quantity. A haphazard, just-get-it-done approach will not. 

As far as rigor goes, I'm thinking that one can't transform oneself from TV-watching, chip-eating, pajama-wearing couch sloth into superfit triathlete overnight. It's a mistake to demand rigor simply so we can say that our programs for students are rigorous. It's a mistake with serious consequences for the students most at risk. We need to keep our intention in front of us at all times. In this case, our intention may be to make sure that students "will be college and career ready."

To make that happen, we have to determine where students are in their learning and identify where we think they should be. Then we figure out which are the gaps that prevent them from attaining that destination and think about strategies--as many and as varied as possible-- to bring students from where they are to where they should be.

Every teacher, school administrator, district superintendent, and school board member should read the Common Core Standards just to be informed, just to know what the conversation should be about, just to be able to review curriculum and assessment materials. Parents should, too.


  1. Implementation. Yes. That is key.

    You spoke recently about the training that you used to see in the testing industry, and where is it now? The same is true of teaching. We used to have regular meetings and trainings that were meaningful and weren't just crammed into the already full school day (we used to even get food!). Now, any training is crammed into what used to be our planning time -- do you see the disconnect? Now we get the training (a little anyway), but no time to think about or prep for using it in our actual classrooms!

    My grump is that "Rigor" is used as a sword against creativity. I will not stop my kiddos from exploring, building, discovering, thinking (which means I should probably be counting the days I have remaining in this field, sadly).

  2. It sounds like you're experiencing exactly the same systemic ills. I'm seeing what you're experiencing at the local level, too, but from the perspective of a parent--I see teachers who appear ill-equipped to provide what students need in order to achieve as expected, but I don't know whether the teachers are supported in any way, if they receive training or time to implement their training if they get it.

    . . ."Rigor" is used as a sword against creativity.
    I don't know where people get the idea that rigor and creativity are mutually exclusive; creative endeavors may be the most rigorous and require the most from students, it's just that maybe students don't suffer in the process.