Common Core Standards: What Has It Taught Us, What
Can We Salvage?
By BIANCA HAWTHORNE
Blanca Hawthorne graduated from Sam Houston State University in Texas in 2008, earning a bachelor's degree in business administration. After several years working in public and private accounting; she opted for a career in education with Houston Independent School District, later pursuing a masters degree in education at University of Houston Texas. She remains in love with the freedom offered by the profession to rediscover the world anew with the children she teaches. Her motto is: "It's hard to age envisioning the world through the fresh vistas of my students--it becomes a perpetual renewal."
The Legal Environment
Although Common Core Standards relate to education, political issues have become an entanglement to a vision that, with corrections, could be an answer to educational challenges brought about by globalization.
The U. S, Constitution is ambiguous about to the role of the Federal Government in public education; there are explicit powers granted to it by the states: declaring war, foreign commerce, etc. On the other hand, The Bill of Rights mentions rights reserved for the states e. g. rights to bear arms, to a speedy trial, etc., but there is no specific mention of public education as a reserved right to the states. It is not surprising since this document was masterly crafted for compromise; in its ambiguity, fostering hopes and extinguishing the fears of many.
In issues related to powers not expressly mentioned in the U S Constitution, courts have resorted often to the 9th and 10th amendments to make decisions, very much according to national and local public interest and/or consensus, giving flexibility to judicial and legislative processes. (IX Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. X Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Common Core Standards: A Need to Improve U. S Education to Keep Up with Globalization
The Standards were developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and The Council of Chief State School Officers. The former is an organization founded in 1908, its membership governors of the 55 states and territories providing governors with services such as representation in Washington D. C. and developing innovative solutions to problems; the latter is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of departmental heads of elementary and secondary education in the states, D.C., and territories. Starting around 2006-2007 Janet Napolitano, then chair of NGA, wrote an initiative emphasizing improvement of mathematics and science education to improve the quality of U. S. workers. She realized that to keep America's world leadership and its competitiveness in the new global age, the U. S. also needed to offer a world quality, global education to its population.
Common Core: After An Initial Welcome, a Pushback Begins
The standards were released in June 2010, and to date 45 states have subscribed to the math and English Common Core standards. However, five years later, after the enthusiastic welcome (partly due to monetary inducements from Washington, given as grants to participating states), 19 states have rejected Common Core as follows: three states have paused implementation, fourteen states have downgraded participation or have withdrawn from national tests, and 4 states have completely withdrawn from Common Core to reclaim standard setting autonomy. "More States Rejecting Common Core."
What went wrong in a plan that, although untried at the beginning, nevertheless, at that time, seemed to hold enough promise for 45 states to consider subscribing to it? A plan envisioned by a woman of great political and leadership reputation nationally and internationally, such as Janet Napolitano?
Common Core Standards: First Hear the Complaints, Then Let's Search for Remedies
The complaints related to Common Core Standards come from three main sources: Politicians and political parties, parents groups, and educators.
Politicians and Political Parties
This analysis is offered with no affiliation to any political party or organization; it is aimed at clarifying issues, and to purge spurious arguments inspired by political ambitions. Common Core merits may be salvageable, including the experience of its implementation for the sake of facing a truth: The world has changed, there is keen competition in it, and our students and education system do not measure well in comparison to other countries. This should be the foremost preoccupation of the present debate. "The results from 2012 Program for International Student Assessment ...show that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading...” (Weisenthal, Joe)
Discontent with the standards in politics seems to go along political lines, with Republicans, especially Tea Party, manifesting opposition to Common Core Standards. ("A Google News search turns up more than 11,000 hits for “Common Core” and “immigration” and “Republican.”).As stated in the title of an article appearing in the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Flypaper "Nine questions: What does it even mean to oppose the Common Core?" The complaints seem vague, unfocussed e. g. Rand Paul "opposes" the Common Core, without saying what aspect of the standards are disapproved, or do politicians know? The article suggest question number " 3. Do you mean that you think states should drop out of the Common Core? States like Iowa? Isn’t that a bit presumptive, considering that you’re not from Iowa and the state’s Republican governor wants Common Core to stay?" or question number 6 "Do you mean you oppose any standards in education that cross state lines? Several years ago, the governors came to an agreement about a common way to measure high school graduation rates. Do you oppose that, too?" (Petrilli, Michael J.)
There is also a resurgence of states' rights issues, pushing back "Washington's impositions" in a realm traditionally the states’: education, although Common Core originated at NGA, and their elaborations and consultations were entirely to the states; the Federal Government only gave incentive grants to participating states. The standards were the states’, and these in turn were to devise curriculums, emphases, and decide on materials, resources, suppliers, etc. The states had also the option to devise their own standards along the new lines of rigor and emphasis on STEM.
Democrats also need to be examined for their contributions to the melee. According to Diana Ravitch, the reasons for the controversy are the Gates Foundation and U. S. Department of Education being in a hurry to implement the standards, leaving many untied knots including the lack of national and international protocols for setting up standards, and omission of inclusion of important stakeholders such as more educators, especially those involved in special education. Strauss, Valerie Additionally, further problems were added by NGA's not having commissions of local stakeholders to devise and/or suggest guidelines for equitable teachers appraisals and appropriate resources and materials for its implementation. The democrats in power in Washington, maybe motivated by political reasons, ignored many crucial details of protocol and operation that could derail a plan that might have served as first step to start building solutions.
Parent Groups: What the Polls Tell Us
As of October 2014, U. S. News and World Report publishes the following results of a Gallup poll: "an increasing number of public school parents view the standards negatively. The poll, which was conducted Sept. 16-17 and sampled 532 parents, found 35 percent of parents view the standards negatively, up from 28 percent in April. The number of parents who view them positively dropped from 35 percent in April to 33 percent, while those who had no opinion or had not heard of the standards dropped from 37 percent to 32 percent." Furthermore, the article mentions that although most parents support the idea of having national education standards, their number went down from 73% to 65%, from April to October 2014. Parents' opinions seemed to follow political affiliations, with 58% Republican parents holding a negative view of the Common Core Standards, while Democratic parents about 85% hold a positive view of the standards. Bidwell, Allie
Educators Position on Common Core, Poll Results
Educators reactions and attitudes about Common Core appears greatly affected by the extent of support in implementation: needed technology, training, adequacy of testing instruments, supplies and equipment. Invariably the greatest point of contention for educators and teachers' unions is related to linking test results to teacher evaluations. Gallup reports that "89% of public school teachers agree that linking teacher evaluations to student test scores on the Common Core is unfair to teachers and 78% agree that testing done to monitor student progress takes too much classroom time away from teaching." Brown, Alyssa.
Because of the limited input of teachers in the crafting of Common Core and its implementation, it is reasonable to understand the results of the "Primary Sources" survey by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation in 2014. As reported in The Atlantic: "Teachers overwhelmingly say they aren't being listened to on matters of education policy at the state or national level" Richmond, Emily.
Common Core: What It Accomplished
If Common Core were to be scrapped today, it would have at least done the following:
1. Working Across State Lines: Common Core facilitated teaming up at state and local level to illuminate the nation about the feasibility of producin
g educational solutions, which although not perfect, are a first step in working towards effective future solutions.
2. Politics: It created public conscience that even if issues in education are appropriated for political agendas, stakeholders must look through beyond, so as to weigh the pros and cons of the issues.
3.Local, State and Federal Budgets: It brought to attention that to roll out an ambitious nation-wide, much-needed educational reform, there is need for more sincerity about where we allocate our money; Common Core could have been more effective if test instruments, technology equipment, teacher support and training had been better funded.
4. Parents Groups: It highlighted the need for a better-informed parent constituency and the role of the education system to educate not only students but the household as well.
5 The Teaching Profession in the United States: Above all, the system and its punishments in the form of misunderstood rigor and over testing for students, the threats to jobs due to linking students' test results to teachers' appraisals on a system that practically was in the pilot phase, conveys to national consensus the low esteem that the teaching profession is held in. The U. S.
Common Core points to the need to upgrade teaching along the lines of countries in the world that enjoy outstanding success in education, e.g. Finland: from teaching training at colleges and universities to a more lucrative remuneration aligned to any of the other professions that require at least a bachelors’ degree for certification and entry.
6. Common Core Standards: The standards merit to be revisited again as a first-step towards improving modifications; whether it is done across state lines or individual states do it:
a. Make use of data collected to analyze results, to illuminate modifications.
b. Solicit ample input and/ feedback of practitioners and the communities, promote ownership.
c. Standards should be reissued to follow the national/international standards proposed by Ravitch to secure transparency and public confidence.
d. Don't give up on working across state lines, even if it has to be done with a few of the states forming compacts of cooperation and collaboration
e. Revise and salvage standards that, although difficult, enjoy support from experts
e.g. mathematics. Consider statements by Jo Boaler, professor at Stanford University Graduate School of Education: "The new Common Core curriculum gives more time for depth and exploration than the curricula it has replaced...But (educational progress is rarely fast and the changes implemented in the Common Core are a step in the right direction." Boaler, Joe)
Bidwell, Allie. "Poll: Parents Turn on Common Core." U. S. News. U. S. News & World Report, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 July 2015. <http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/10/28/gallup-more-parents-now-oppose-common-core-standards>. Data from polling parents: What they think about Common Core
Brown, Alyssa. "Teachers Feel Worried, Frustrated About Common Core." GALLUP. GALLUP, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 23 July 2015. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/179048/teachers-feel-worried-frustrated-common-core.aspx>. Poll results related to teachers attitudes and feelings about Common Core implementation.
"More States Rejecting Common Core." Map. Heritage. N.p., 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 July 2015. <https://www.myheritage.org/news/infographic-more-states-are-rejecting-common-core/>.
Petrilli, Michael J. "Nine questions:What does it even mean to oppose the Common Core?" 29 Jan. 2015. FLYPAPER update. <http://edexcellence.net/articles/nine-questions-what-does-it-even-mean-to-oppose-the-common-core>. Author questions validity of Common Core foes' stances.
Strauss, Valerie. "Ravitch: The best reason to oppose the Common Core Standards." The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 23 July 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/24/ravitch-the-best-reason-to-oppose-the-common-core-standards/>. Ravitch asserts Common Core standards were not done according to national and international protocols for setting up standards.
Weisenthal, Joe. "Here's The New Ranking Of Top Countries In Reading, Science, And Math." Infographic. Business Insider. Business Insider, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 July 2015. <http://www.businessinsider.com/pisa-rankings-2013-12>.
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