Pull Out? Not Going to Happen
The Common Core State Standards became Oklahoma’s curriculum for Math and English/Language Arts in 2010 when Brad Henry was governor and Sandy Garrett was state superintendent. The hard work to transition to the standards in schools has come under their Republican replacements. They are the adopted standards in 44 states (though it used to be 48). Some of these states are red. Some are blue. The CCSS are not a part of any federal mandate, but all discretionary grant money from the US Department of Education is now tied to states adopting certain reforms, such as College, Career, and Citizenship readiness (C3) standards.
The people working in schools are struggling with this transition. State support has been incomplete at best. Communication with the testing consortium has been confusing. And every vendor with a rolodex now has Common Core aligned materials, just for you.
In 2010, when we adopted the standards before they were completed, some things made sense about this process. The expectations for third grade reading or Algebra I should be the same in Oologah, Oklahoma as they are in Mashpee, Massachusetts. The push for literacy instruction across all content areas also made sense. It’s an idea that aligns with what I’ve always thought. In fact, the use of informational text in literature is a key component of almost all Advanced Placement subject. Students who do well in those courses and on their tests are strong writers. The same is true with students who do well in college.
When I read the CCSS, I have a few quibbles with specific standards being placed somewhere when I would prefer they were somewhere else. I may not like the wording here and there. That’s to be expected, though. I would assume that among the people on the committees who developed them, several feel that way too. There is no perfect document when it comes to instructional standards.
However, the chatter in Oklahoma against the Common Core is getting louder. It’s coming from schools who are frustrated at the lack of state support (REAC3H) has been ineffective. And it’s coming from the Tea Party conservatives who are concerned about federal overreach. It’s coming from concerned parents who don’t like Constructivist instruction. Though I may disagree with the reasons they are concerned, I wish I believed their voices were being heard.
That’s the problem. Nobody listens.
This week, Scholastic’s Administrator magazine ran an article listing three reasons why resistance to the Common Core is happening. First is the top down approach to implementation. As I often complain about other state initiatives, this idea has come from somewhere else. And we are being coerced into using it. While I may like certain things about the CCSS, I too have a problem with this. The second is testing overload. We are already knee deep into a testing process that the occupants of the SDE aren’t proficient at administering. Making it more complicated and longer does not appeal to parents, students, teachers, or anybody – except reformers and the testing companies. The third reason is the lack of resources. The hard truth is that there still isn’t much out there that aligns to the Common Core. Publishers don’t turn around their products that quickly.
We are knee deep into this. Some want us to cut our losses and move on. While I doubt that will happen, those who feel this way should be heard, listened to, and valued. What I want is time and support to do this well. Regional conferences, guest speakers, and 60 REAC3H coaches learning their jobs on the fly aren’t enough.
We’ve had standards-based education for more than two decades. Whatever happens with the Common Core, we will continue to have standards-based education. With the rule changes adopted this week by the State Board of Education, it will be easier for the SDE to change those standards too.