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Common Criticisms: Required Readings 05.05.14

I’m an educator in a public high school in a state where the Common Core is currently being implemented.  I’ve sent two cohorts through the state testing cycle, and I’m in the final month preparing a third.  I’m still struggling to figure out how I feel about CCSS.  Mostly that’s because I’m still struggling to figure out what I know about CCSS.  My skeptic brain wants evidence, but two cycles in makes for a small sample size.  Since they are state standards, there are really 45 different implementations.  It’s a bit like discussing the cure for cancer — there is no one cancer, and therefore no one cure.

Further, the issue is highly politicized, yet opinions don’t fall along party lines.  Some conservatives hate it because they think it’s a federal program, and therefore…well, OBAMA!  While other conservatives like it, because it represents a measure for schools and teachers, and therefore a vector for free market principles in education.  This week, Louis C.K. offered his frustrations as a parent in New York.  Common in frustrations like C.K.’s is a dislike for the assessments.  Pearson has been the subject of a lot of the testing angst lately, since they are contracted with the PARCC, an assessment development organization for a consortium of CCSS states.  Three computer scientists from MIT and Harvard recently showed that the systems developed for grading the free response are broken.  While CCSS wants students to demonstrate critical thinking and deeper understanding, the graders will have no clue of their abilities.

The most common criticisms I have come across don’t deal with the standards themselves or even the idea of standards; rather, most are frustrated with the implementation of CCSS.  That has been my local experience as well.  I have been a part of a committee with teachers from schools across the district to try to create teacher leaders for common core, because the top-down implementation has been less than stellar.  That said, if you’ve finally decided you better start to wrap your head around this whole issue, Educationnext has an article in their summer issue that has a good summary of where we are and how we got here.

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Keith is a high school Chemistry and Biology teacher for an urban public school district in an area of the country where pants are called “britches.” Though he has a degree in Percussion Performance, he teaches science because he thinks that a well honed skeptical toolbox is necessary for a more informed citizenry and a more just and prosperous society. When he’s not in the classroom, he spends all his time with his wife and two children, attempting to become the first person in the world to be both a perfect husband and father.

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