What’s the REAL Problem with Common Core Down to the Nitty Gritty?
Many people hate Common Core without really even knowing what it is…
Ever since I first learned of Common Core, I began studying it. My wife is an educational consultant the type of districts my wife is invited into are those that are in danger of being taken over by the federal government, usually due to terrible student performance. If the students aren’t doing well on the standardized testing, then it’s normally because they aren’t doing well in class in general. Because my wife’s specialty is Special Education, it is not uncommon for her to go into classrooms only to find that the Individualized Educational Program (IEP) for specific students is so general that they really say nothing. Here’s an example of a bad IEP goal. “Given a variety of reading tasks, Ivan will complete them in 3 out of 5 trials.” This type of IEP goal is way too general.
Here is an example of a good IEP goal. “Given a graphic organizer that identifies the ‘who, what, where, when, why’ questions and the option to highlight text as necessary, Charles will summarize grade level text and draw inferences by using textual details and examples with at least 80% accuracy as measured by progress monitoring on classroom proficiency based rubrics by June 14, 2014.” (CCSS: ELA 4.RL.1)
As if this isn’t bad enough, you hear the “horror” stories of Common Core and how the “curriculum” provided by the federal government is way out there, overtly sexual in nature, Marxist, or simply dumbs kids down further. The problem? The federal government does NOT create curriculum, period!
What I have found is that much of the concern over Common Core is due to false impressions. I read one long article (by an educator no less), who stated that the curriculum she was “forced” to use for Common Core had been created by the federal government and it was one that delved deeply into the area of sexuality. All I can say is that educator is sorely misinformed. The federal government did not create the curriculum she was using. Someone did, but it wasn’t the federal government. It was likely created by a textbook publisher or a group (or individual) of educators that her district chose to adopt, thereby “forcing” her to use it.
In general, there are six things not covered by the Common Core Standards:
- The standards do NOT tell teachers how to teach or what to use in teaching. The Common Core standards simply define what all students are expected to know and be able to do. That is the extent of the federal government’s involvement in the process. They define standards. They do not tell teachers how to teach or what to use to teach. That is left up to the states or the local districts.
- The focus of the standards is on what is most essential for students to learn. The standards themselves do not cover all that can be or should be taught. Quite a bit is left to the educator and those who develop the curriculum. Standards are designed to articulate the fundamentals. They are not meant to be an exhaustive list of everything that should be covered and how they should be covered.
- Standards do not deal with the question of what to do for students who already meet the standards. The standards are meant as a basic foundation for all students.
- The standards are grade-specific but do not set intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations.
- The standards are also not designed to meet the full range of supports that are appropriate for English language learners and for students with special needs.
- Finally, while English Language Standards (ELA) under Common Core and content area literacy components described by the standards are important to college and career readiness, they do not define the whole of such readiness.
While the federal government defines or sets the standards for grade-level achievement, the federal government has no say in the curriculum that is used at the local level by the educator. Educators who tell you otherwise are shoveling manure and want you to feel sorry for them. There is absolutely no way that the federal government is involved in the creation of classroom curriculum. It simply is not part of the process.
I was an educator in the public school system in California for ten years before I became an adjunct college professor. Every few years, we would go through another “adoption” of classroom textbooks. We always had several to choose from and some teachers (depending on their subject) could opt out and use other materials as long as they covered the standards.
I was privileged to work with some amazing educators. They loved kids and wanted them to succeed. However, every so often, I would come across a teacher who was extraordinarily lazy. They rebelled at anything new and would dig their heels in. I recall one man who for 25 years used the exact same dittos (yes, DITTOS!) every year! He refused to change or adapt. He had his system and he was sticking to it. Tenure will do that to some teachers.
Common Core is simply a redefining and refining of the educational standards. The biggest problem with it? States do not have the funding to implement the assessments aligned with the Common Core as those assessments need to be completed on a computer. This means that schools would have to have enough computers for every student. Instead of writing the answers physically in a booklet or on an answer sheet then sending the tests into a testing company for grading, the students would take their test on the computer and the assessments would then be electronically sent into the testing company.
There is tremendous misinformation about the Common Core out there. People need to research the situation themselves and they actually need to do that by focusing in on the specific Common Core standards for each grade level.by