March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Waiting for the Common Core to Go Away? Don’t Hold Your Breath | Consider the Source

CommonCore_statesWhere are we on the Common Core State Standards? Right now I’m working on a chapter on elementary school nonfiction for a textbook. In the original draft, my co-author linked the new emphasis on nonfiction reading to the Common Core initiative (CCSS). We were told by our editor that the CCSS should not be mentioned, as it may date the textbook—as if the standards might fade away. That echoes sentiments I often hear, and the hope, expressed as an expectation, that the standards are about to disappear. Certainly we have seen strong objections to them from the Tea-Party right, the Bill-Gates-averse left, and the not-necessarily-political parents that have led several states to review, rename, “repackage,” or cut back on the standards, and/or delay or replace the Common Core assessments. For my part, I am convinced that this-too-shall-pass attitude is entirely misguided.

In a recent Education Week article Andrew Ujifusa (“Common Core May Persist, Even In Opposition States”; July 30, 2014) discussed the Common Core standards and what reassessment means in states that have chosen to go that way. The article’s conclusion matches my own impressionistic sense; political opposition left or right may peck at aspects of the CCSS, and mistakes, limitations, weaknesses in the rollout and/or the assessments may cause states to make valid adjustments and corrections, but the heart of the Common Core is here to stay.

From the start I have thought that as an educational framework the standards were excellent, while linking student testing to assessment of librarians, teachers, and administrators was a mistake—at least until the entire system had time to catch up and adjust. Of course, every aspect of the standards should be evaluated, measured, considered, and calibrated—that’s a Common Core approach. But all of this shifting, whether merely political or based in sound educational practice, is the reality check that comes with real change.

The fundamental pressure for the Common Core comes from the world into which our students graduate. You may not agree with the views explored in Eduardo Porter’s “Income Inequality and the Ills Behind It” (The New York Times, July 29, 2014), but the article should give you pause. Two well-regarded professors argue that the problem is not income inequality, but educational inequality. They believe the gap between those who have the skills and training to fill the new jobs in the new economy and those who don’t is unavoidable. We can do something here and there to ease the pain of these divisions in our society, but ultimately, finally, the gap divides those who do and those who do not know how to use the tools or have the skills (whether specific techniques or problem solving) that will earn a decent living. There is no middle space.

We can argue about our social obligations, but from an educational point of view what the article does is focus us once again on the impetus behind the standards. The reality is we have not done enough to prepare our students for life after high school. The CCSS are a very clear and smart effort to help fix that. Until someone offers a better program that can be rolled out in any full, scaled-up way, our job is to learn the standards, to work with them, to see where they and their implementation can be improved, and get on with it. Waiting for the CCSS to blow over does not help students, schools, teachers, parents, or librarians. It is a passive strategy in an era of change.

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Marc Aronson About Marc Aronson

Marc Aronson is a Rutgers University lecturer in the School of Communication and Information and the author of many notable nonfiction titles for children and young adults including, The Skull in the Rock, winner of the 2013 Subaru Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His book The Griffin and the Scientist (with Adrienne Mayor) will be published in April 2014. He was the first recipient of the Robert F. Sibert medal from the American Library Association for excellence in nonfiction writing for youth.

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  1. Myra Zarnowski says:

    As the co-author of the chapter you mentioned, I was jolted by the editor’s comment that I should not mention CCSS. My point was simply that by using good teaching we would also be meeting CCSS standards. As we move towards implementing CCSS standards more fully, we need to keep in mind that the standards help us teach content in greater depth.

    • Sherry Shaheen says:

      It is not the CCSS that are the real culprit, but the assessments and NUMBER of tests students face through every grade level. Tests and test scores are necessary tools to indicate student comprehension of subject matter, however, an overabundance of the types of tests associated with Common Core simply produces numbers/data. Numbers are numbers and children are children. Data does not represent the child as a whole. Such figures will never show the many factors that may contribute to a test score on any given day – for example the child’s home environment, absenteeism, or even something as easy to diagnose as a headache and the sniffles – the type of student background and information that teachers are in-tune to on a day-to-day basis. High stakes attached to those tests ( in Ohio – the Third Grade Guarantee and merit pay for teachers) have no place in the assessment process. I am a firm believer that teachers must have the freedom to teach creatively. Remember that children learn from modeling. If a teacher has the time to teach using hands-on methods, their students will not only retain what they have learned, but will also learn necessary skills to apply that knowledge to real world situations. Teachers are spending too much time and energy teaching to the tests (and I emphasize TESTS not test.) Finally, no matter that we are living in a technological society/world, because no amount of technology will successfully take the place of developmentally appropriate standards. The kindergarten and first grade standards provide that proof. Let’s not go entirely back to square one, but just go back to the drawing board and make adjustments to the standards. However, we must throw out the number and types of tests administered to students in the current Common Core. In doing that, we might be able to let teachers actually do what they have trained to do – TEACH rather than spend time deciphering the numbers which computer companies, big business and the government have determined as indicators of educational success.

  2. Richard Moore says:

    What do you think of the CCSS science standards? Oh, that’s right, THEY DON’T EXIST. Ditto History, art, foreign language, physical education….. CC$$ is a sham created to get around illegal national standards and sell workbooks and tests.

  3. Deborah MacInnis says:

    I would love to see all high school students able to pass the citizenship test, do a short form of the income tax, balance a checkbook, make a week’s healty menus within a budget, count change back for a purchase from $100, read a analog clock, find a book in library , sew on a button, follow a recipe, figure out directions to reach a location on a map, learn to how read a news article and interpret it, and learn cpr for adults and children. The number of tests these kids take, panics them, and does not give them actual life skills.