Archive for May, 2014

Controversy Clouds Common Core Compact

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were initially an answer to controversy over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It required students to be proficient in state standards by this year 2014. Most states and teachers in the country knew years ago that the provisions of NCLB (the revision of the Elementary and Secondary School Act in 2001) would never succeed.

Why? States realized that when comparing proficiency, each state had different standards for grade level proficiency and different benchmarks to label students proficient or not. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam confirmed that diagnosis. High-flying student scores dived on the NAEP.

In the uproar that followed, the National Governor’s Association asked the Chief State School Officers Association to gather a team willing to set up standards for all 50 states, Washington D.C. and other territories like Guam. Although agreement to use the standards was voluntary, 45 of the 50 states did agree. And, in spite of criticism that always appears when a new idea is suggested, the standards were well-liked at first. Students were asked to think critically (the new “thing”) and to use their knowledge to solve problems, not merely spit out a fact. Could it be that reams of opinion about vouchers, teacher evaluation, and “school choice” would be sidelined as teacher preparation and strengthened curriculum became the headline?

As for criticism, the most worrisome is to blame current poor rates of reading and math proficiency, poor high school graduation, and poor teacher practice on public school education. Above all, the 22% impoverished children in the U.S. continue to trouble urban and rural sections of the country. Will CCSS change that? Only with relentless determination over time.

What has happened? Suddenly, the talk has become political. States have dropped out of the two consortia that formed to design an exam that would assess student learning. Did anyone think that an “assessment” would NOT be designed? However, a major concern is the use of “problem solving” queries rather than old-time multiple choice questions. Ah! Should students be taught to think?

Controversy explodes over security and privacy of test data. (See other posts.) Although participation is voluntary and the standards were developed by state educators, not the federal government, very conservative citizens insist the CCSS is an element of “federal takeover” of their lives. The most conservative state legislatures use such worries as the excuse to drop out of their consortia. Indiana has dropped away. Missouri’s and Kansas’ legislatures are debating the issue.

Will we ever get past the politics? You may have strong ideas about assessment, teacher preparation, or “choice.” Who would think that providing Common Core State Standards to every citizen’s son and daughter should be the controversy?