“Common Core” is the label of the national set of standards that will apply to K-12 public school students in the United States for the subjects of English language arts and math. The initiative to create a rigorous national set of standards is part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top (“RttT”).
In exchange for adherence to the Common Core State Standards, adopting states received federal money. Of the 45 states that originally signed on to adopt Common Core, however, 20 are in various stages of reconsidering full, on-time deployment. In Connecticut, for example, public criticism is strong enough that the state department of education is seeking a PR firm to create a pro-Common Core media campaign. Budget for the project is $1 million.
States’ current adoption progress
In exchange for RttT funding, states need to adopt the standards, be subject to standardized testing based on the standards, create teacher evaluation tools that are tied to the standards, and create digital data mechanisms for test-taking and information gathering on America’s students.
While the United States’ Department of Education, corporate leaders, the national PTA (Parent Teacher Association), and the National Governor’s Association support the standards, not everyone is so quick to do so. Educational reformer and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, is a vocal critic of standardized assessments; she is also critical of tying teacher evaluations to student performance.
Political conservatives are concerned about federal infringement on states’ rights and they are concerned that the Tenth Amendment is being violated with the federal influence of the RttT money. Equally alarming to them is what they feel to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment in the collection of health, scoring, and economic data on the nation’s students.
In the following video clip, Glenn Beck, discusses the data mining that is part of the Race to the Top initiative. As an icon of the Tea Party movement, Beck is often polarizing to people on the liberal and moderate political spectrum. In this clip he uses existing governmental documents to demonstrate how data that has, until now, been considered a violation of privacy will be collected on students and families as part of Race to the Top.
Personalizing Common Core
For my capstone project, I wanted to find hear from teachers who are currently in the process of implementing Common Core; and I wanted to find out what angles my readers would be interested in having me investigate for my Master’s thesis. The political battle will rage, but for teachers who are tasked with having the system operational by the 2014-15 school year, how is it going for them?
The responses were thoughtful and articulate.
Reddit user /u/cest-bon noted the following: Common Core has not been field tested. No longitudinal studies have been conducted to demonstrate a case for long-term success. The standards were created by corporate interests and governmental agencies without adequate input from teachers and parents. Teacher preparation has been inadequate. The costs associated with acquiring the technology to be compliant with the standardized testing is going to place additional cost burdens on districts and supply a boon of purchases to companies like Microsoft.
Speaking of developmental appropriateness in math specifically, /u/arouson says Common Core, “…forces (students) to think too deeply when they need to be mastering fundamentals.” This user is concerned about students at the higher end of the K-12 spectrum are having the rules changed on them late in the game.
New teacher /u/metroid6B12 shares stories heard from veteran teachers who have lived through other sweeping curriculum changes, and recommends I follow that line of inquiry. The user sees the value and supports the idea of rigorous standards but voices concern over the emphasis on standardized tests.
“I think this is an ineffective way to evaluate and only one small component of the broader educational experience. It is also subject to far too many variables. I can have a student demonstrate a problem to me perfectly one day, then give an assessment the next day and he bombs it. No rhyme or reason, the kid just didn’t get it that day.”
What my readers want
To find out what elements my readers want to see, I created a survey, but got few actionable results. The primary question of the survey was to ask which elements people would like to see. If you, Dear Reader, would be so kind as to visit the survey and let me know what would be of interest to you, it would help me to focus my efforts on the angles that are of interest to you!