Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fears of the Common Core

It seems that the left and the right are converging over fears associated with the Common Core standards that are being pushed across the nation.  I have been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon that the Common Core is an evil beast that will consume the soul of education.  (I think that happened with the passage of No Child Left Behind.)  I looked at it, like many others, a start of a solid idea.  Lets find some common standards that are being taught to help us focus on developing a solid base for education, not because I think that South Dakota is suffering, but because I kept hearing all these stories of students graduating that were unable to read.  My biggest fear, beyond the fact I may end up spending 30-40 hours of rewriting lesson plans that I do to prove that they meet the CC Standards and then find that we will reject those standards, is that it will become a tool for non-educators to try and prove that education in the state is horrible and it will lead to rejection of proven programs like music and tech that add to a student's learning.  

I think that the corporations are taking over and that will be the collapse of anything beneficial with the initial thought of the Common Core Standards.  I think a comment from Carol Burris, an award-winning principal in New York is on the right track:
What occurs in a “data driven”, high-stakes learning environment is that the full domain of what should be learned narrows to those items tested.  The Common Core, for example, wants students to grow in five skill areas in English Language Arts — reading, writing, speaking, listening and collaboration. But the Common Core tests will only measure reading and writing.  Parents can expect that the other three will be neglected as teachers frantically try to prepare students for the difficult and high-stakes tests.  What gets measured gets done, and make no mistake: “reformers” understand that full well.  In fact, they count on it. They see data, not children.  For the corporate reformers, test data constitute the bottom-line profits that they watch.
 So when people like Cory Heidelberger and L Kallis share their fears about what is happening with Common Core, I hope and think some people are listening.  My fear is not that the federal government will come down and indoctrinate our children in the teaching of Lenin, but that we use the tools in all the wrong fashion.  These tools will be used by people to try and further damage the hard work that has been done by teachers every year to get better.

Case in point is P&R Miscellany points to a article that repeats the words of Governor Daugaard:
Spending three times as much for the same results - further evidence that the problems in our education system will not be fixed by spending still more.  Let's try to get some better results from what we are already spending first.
Sound familiar?  That is the same justification that Daugaard uses the idea to crucify the education system time and again.  In the Mitchell Daily Republic on January 17, 2012 (the link to the paper is not working, but you can find the article here)

“We should not measure our schools based on the money we’re putting in or how many people are in the school,” he said. “We should measure our schools by what our students are doing.” 
Daugaard said he cannot justify putting more money into what he termed the current ineffective educational system in South Dakota. 
 When you base all of your decisions on tests that only measure a few categories, you are stuck seeing only the data and not the children.  In the case of Daugaard and many others on the right, they only see dollar signs and not the children.  

As Michael Fullen, an authority on school reform once said, "A fool with a tool is still a fool.  A fool with a powerful tool is a dangerous fool."

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