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Pondering Current Education Reform: The Common Core

March 20, 2013

Common-CoreOn the history of the Common Core State Standards Initiative*: It was a bi-partisan development that sprang, in the late 2000s, from the National Governors Association. See the development section at Wikipedia; it’s a decent, quick-and-dirty summary. The Common Core has been adopted by both Red and Blue states (e.g. IL, MN, TX, etc.). Indeed, states would not be eligible for “Race to the Top” funding unless they adopted Common Core standards.

On the theory behind the Common Core: As is intimated by the word “common,” it’s all about standardization in relation to math, reading, and writing. It’s not at all about the vagaries of personalization or following one’s curiosity. From the standpoint of history and literature, the curriculum actually looks attractive in an E.D. Hirsch *Cultural Literacy* kind of way, meaning that students are encouraged to learn about fundamental facts that really do matter—knowing significant figures, books, events, ideas, etc.

Criticism of the Common Core: (1) One problem is too much testing to show the powers-that-be that the students are “learning” (read: memorizing) and that teachers are being held accountable. In other words, it’s part of the larger “Accountability” movement in K-12 education. (2) Not personalized enough—doesn’t allow for the substantial tailoring of a lesson plan to a particular class. (3) It’s an inflexible national rather than flexible local standard; it’s a one-sized fits all approach. (4) It’s data and administrator centered rather than student centered. (5) The Common Core has been implemented without any field tests.

Here are some articles by trusted authors on problems with the Common Core:

1. This piece is authored by one of today’s premier critics of K-12 education, Diane Ravitch. In short, she has recently decided that she cannot support the Common Core movement.

2. Here Ravitch hosts a piece by a high-school principal in New York, Carol Burris, on why Burris has gone from being a supporter to an opponent of the Common Core.

3. The Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss hosts an article written by Stephen Lazar on his diminishing support for Common Core.

Looking at these critiques overall, it is interesting that, over time, the Common Core is receiving more criticism from the Left than the Right—even though you might expect a *national* standards movement to be strenuously opposed by small-government conservatives.

Finally, read this to get a first-hand view of student/teacher life in the Common Core. It is an excerpt from a book critical of the Common Core. Here’s a hint on that first-hand experience: “…a normal school day consists of the following: copying notes, listening to lectures, filling out worksheets, reviewing for tests, taking tests, and receiving an overload of homework. Then we do it again the next day, and the next, and the next…”

That’s all I really know or suspect—as of today. – TL

*To my knowledge, no complete history of this movement exists.

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