Common Core State Standards
Common Core State Standards are here – at least for the vast majority of the United States. Those that have not yet adopted them are Alaska, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the American Samoan Islands. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website “the Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce…These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.” (http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards)
Why do we need standards that cross state borders and are alleged to remove local control? Due to our increasingly mobile society and the global economy, there needs to be consistency and an assurance that all students are receiving a quality education (no matter where they live or move to) that will enable them to be successful after graduation whether in college or in the workplace. The CCSS are NOT a curriculum. That is determined by the states and the local districts. Within that framework teachers will have still be able to teach the material in the way that they deem is best for their students. The CCSS merely help teachers to know what knowledge and skills to target at what grade levels so that they can create the lessons and classrooms to totally support their students’ success. Parents and students now have clear and realistic step-by-step goals for success in education. The CCSS are the foundation and “provide an accessible roadmap for our teachers, parents, and students.”
What are the concerns that are surfacing about CCSS? There are many concerns about the CCSS which I will try to summarize. First, as always when anything changes, you have the normal critics who do believe that the CCSS are flawed – everything from wrong sequences, not enough of specific kinds of content, and too much of other. These critics are probably well-meaning. However, “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Second, many believe that implementing the CCSS will be very expensive. That may be true but much of the bankrolling of this initiative is being carried by private philanthropists. (That brings another concern in and of itself.) Third, some critics are worried that the CCSS are too rigorous and will cause even higher levels of failure than we are already seeing across the country. The reality is that the CCSS are simply standards – not the blueprint to higher student achievement. If all we have are the standards and they are not used the way they are intended as a guide and stair step to achievement, indeed nothing will happen and student achievement may indeed decrease. Fourth, a few states – Massachusetts – are concerned that they will be lowering their standards because they have done fine by themselves. They further believe that CCSS will just level everyone in the country – bringing down those who are high and bringing up those who are low. The reality is that participation is voluntary and those states that believe they are doing fine are not required to participate in this initiative. Fifth, and perhaps one of the two biggest concerns (I saved the best for last) is that many are concerned that this is making a “national” curriculum and usurping state and local control. However, there needs to be a differentiation about “national” versus “federal” (as in federal government). We truly already have national standards for college admissions in the form of the ACT and SAT tests as well as Advanced Placement courses. As for the “national” curriculum, the CCSS are NOT a curriculum. That is still totally under state and local control. The last objection is perhaps the most legitimate: that the federal government will interfere and the CCSS will become “politicized, corrupted and turned from national/voluntary into federal/coercive.” Unfortunately, though perhaps not intentional, this last objection has some evidence to back it up. There are at least three things that the federal government, in the form of the Secretary of Education and the President of the U.S., has done that support this objection/fear. 1. Race to the Top monies were tied to states accepting the CCSS 2. Obtaining a waiver from NCLB was also tied to accepting CCSS, and 3. Federal money granted to 2 different consortia of states to develop the assessments that would align with CCSS. These three political maneuvers remove the voluntary part of adopting CCSS and give the impression, if not the reality, that CCSS are being controlled by the federal government. Add to that public comments made by both Secretary Duncan and President Obama that lambast the states that don’t want to adopt the CCSS and you have a definite impression of political maneuvering and interference. You cannot say that adoption is voluntary and then ridicule states that haven’t adopted the CCSS or have and are thinking of changing their mind. That is then no longer voluntary. Furthermore there is talk about tying Title One monies to CCSS also, another coercive tactic aimed at the districts that have the greatest need. (http://educationnext.org/the-war-against-the-common-core/)
There are a couple of more concerns about CCSS. If these are being bankrolled by private philanthropists like Bill Gates, Fordham, General Electric, etc. who has the real control over public education? We all know that if we want to know what is really going on, we need to follow the money trail. So this raises a concern about what is in it for the people who are bankrolling the CCSS Initiative. Then you also have the issue of how are we going to know if implementing this CCSS Initiative is successful. The short answer is “the assessments”. And who is going to make (and get paid big bucks for making) the assessments? Why the publishing industry, of course. So, whether the Initiative is successful or not, there is a tremendous amount of money being spent that is not really benefiting education or the students. This is happening at the same time that states, schools, teachers, parents and students have to tighten their belts the tightest they have ever had them in the last couple of decades at least, if not since the “Great Depression”. (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/national-standards/what-the-common-core-standards.html)
The CCSS may be a good thing because of the consistency in standards, as well as the “roadmap” to success. However, the standards alone are not going to increase student achievement. One of the major problems will be resource equity. In this economy, that is going to be a difficult dilemma for virtually all of the schools who need a boost in student achievement the most – the ones that are currently low-achieving. CCSS do nothing about one of the biggest determiner of academic achievement, which is Socio Economic Status (SES). Poverty is still a large factor in low achievement and CCSS will not change that. (http://www.academicjournals.org/err/pdf/pdf%202011/july/lacour%20and%20tissington.pdf)
“About the Standards.” Common Core State Standards Initiative. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), 2012. Web. 05 Aug. 2012. <http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards>.
Finn, Jr., Chester E. “Education Next.” The War Against the Common Core :. Program on Education Policy and Governance, Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Aug. 2012. <http://educationnext.org/the-war-against-the-common-core/>.
Johnson, Fawn. “- Education Experts.” - Education Experts. The Atlantic, Feb 2012. Web. 05 Aug. 2012. <http://education.nationaljournal.com/2012/02/common-cores-good-bad-and-ugly.php?comments=expandall>.
Lacour, Misty, and Laura D. Tissington. “The Effects of Poverty on Academic Achievement.” Educational Research and Reviews 6 (7).July (2011): 522-27. Web. 05 Aug. 2012. <http://www.academicjournals.org/err/pdf/pdf%202011/july/lacour%20and%20tissington.pdf>
Strauss, Valerie. “What Common Core State Standards Are — and Aren’t.” The Answer Sheet -. The Washington Post, June 2010. Web. 05 Aug. 2012. <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/national-standards/what-the-common-core-standards.html>.