I have some problems with the Common Core State Standards, (CCSS), but I want to establish from the get go that I, personally, don’t have a problem with the Common Core State Standards in and of themselves; neither the CCSS for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical subjects nor the CCSS for Mathematics, as published in 2010. I first received my personal copies in the fall of the 2012/13 school year. I have read them a number of times, with my skillful ability to discern more from the standards each time; to make fuller use of the text, including making an increasing number of connections among the ideas presented within the standards, all the while considering a wide range of textual evidence. In doing so, I have become more sensitive to the inconsistencies, ambiguities, and poor reasoning* contained within, but for the most part, like I said, I don’t have a problem with the CCSS. In fact, I have embraced them.
*Introduction, page 8, CCSS for Literacy (For those of you who don’t recognize the CCSS when you see it. Hee Hee.)
Note to the BATs, of which I am a member, proud and loud, and to any other interested parties: I have a HUGE problem with the implementation of the CCSS, from the origins of their creation,
to the authors,
to the stake-holder buy-in (or lack thereof),
to the appropriateness of Appendices A, B, and C, (specifically
to text exemplars and sample performance tasks tied to specific grade levels),
to the across-the-nation implementation without peer review or piloting,
to the SBAC and the PARCC and how they are inextricably and intentionally tied to the CCSS
to the SBAC and the PARCC and subsequent issues stemming from any testing tied to high stakes,
to the questionable use of federal public education funds to “implement” and “assess” the CCSS
to the very name, The Common Core State Standards…
Well, you get the idea. But that’s all future blog-fodder.
This post is about what I don’t have a problem with, with respect to the CCSS.
I don’t have a problem with a new set of standards. Education has always had standards, and it always will. The standards set forth what the students should know and be able to do. They are a guide for states, districts, administrators, and individual educators in real, live classrooms. Standards should evolve and change as new information, educational pedagogy, and practices come to light. We don’t want our standards to stagnate; we want them to be malleable and adaptable. Just like our students.
On page one of the Introduction to the CCSS for Literacy it states, “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.” I don’t have a problem with that; in fact, I embrace it.
However, this I know: Standards drive my curriculum;
Students drive my instruction.
I don’t have a problem with a common set of standards for the entire country; all fifty states plus DC and even territories. In fact, I think having a common core of knowledge and skills that each Educated-in-America student will have when he or she graduates from high school, no matter in which part of the US the education took place, is a good thing.
As long as it is just that…a common core.
I’m a teacher, and teachers like apples, so I going to go with an apple analogy here. The core of the apple is certainly important; it is, in fact, indespensible. The core is where the seeds are, where reproduction happens; if we don’t have the core, we don’t have new trees, and we don’t have more apples. But the core of the apple is not the part we eat; it’s not the part that nourishes us, it’s not the part that we enjoy. That’s the flesh of the apple, the juicy, nutritious, delicious part; the part of the apple that makes us, well, love apples.
The Common Core State Standards, the core, can be the same for every student in every state; and the delicious part of the apple, the part that brings us back for more, can be different for every state, every district, and every classroom, every year. The core can be fleshed out to meet the specific and unique needs of each individual student in each classroom, in each district, in each state, in our great nation.
Luckily, on page four of the introduction to the CCSS for Literacy, it states:
A focus on results rather than means
By emphasizing required achievements, the Standards (the Core!) leave room for teachers, curriculum developers, and states to determine how those goals should be reached and what additional topics should be addressed. Thus, the Standards do not mandate such things as a particular writing process or the full range of metacognitive strategies that students may need to monitor and direct their thinking and learning. Teachers are thus free to provide students with whatever tools and knowledge their professional judgment and experience identify as most helpful for meeting the goals set out in the standards.
I embrace that.
Moreover, on page 6 of the Introduction to the CCSS for Literacy, it goes on to state:
“The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.” Furthermore, “The Standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum consistent with the expectations laid out in this document.”
That, I can provide. That, I can embrace.
And, this I know: Standards drive my curriculum;
Students drive my instruction.
In addition, the Introduction, page 6 goes on to specify:
While the Standards focus on what is most essential, they do not describe all that can or should be taught. A great deal is left to the discretion of teachers and curriculum developers. The aim of the Standards is to articulate the fundamentals, not to set out an exhaustive list or a set of restrictions that limits what can be taught beyond what is specified herein.
Again, the CCSS are a common core of expectations. The ways and the means to that end, the mastery of the Standards, that’s the edible, yummy part of the apple, and is left up to teachers, districts, and states. I embrace that!
Page 6 of the Introduction goes on to specifically state that the CCSS “do not define the nature of advanced work for students who meet the Standards (the core) prior to the end of high school” and are ready to extend their learning. That is left up to the teacher. The CCSS “do not define specific intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or above grade level expectations.” That is left up to the teacher. The CCSS “do not define the full range of supports appropriate for English language learners and for students with special needs.” That is left up to the teachers.
I embrace that. Standards drive my curriculum;
Students drive my instruction.
Please note that this introduction specifies that the CCSS are NOT A CURRICULUM. I embrace that.
(Which is not to say that the CCSS are not being treated as a curriculum by companies developing the high-stakes tests and/or curriculum to support CCSS and by some states/districts/schools. But this post is about what I don’t have a problem with, so I’ll move on.)
So, I can live with the Common Core State Standards.
As I read them, these Standards promote critical thinking and problem solving. These Standards promote collaboration and diversity. These Standards promote research and in- depth study. These standards promote a constructivist epistemology. These Standards promote creative and purposeful expression! These Standards even promote play! They promote Science, Social Studies, Technology, and indirectly these Standards therefore promote Music, Health, Physical Education, and Art! I embrace all of that! It is, according to a close read of the CCSS, the exact opposite of the kind of teaching and learning that was necessarily foisted upon the students and their teachers to meet the demands required by No Child Left Behind. I don’t have a problem with any of that. With a huge sigh of relief, I embrace it!