Father Time turned another page in his calendar and the New Year is upon us. I, for one, am excited—especially because we have inched that much closer to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.
I spent a lot of time during my break thinking about the new standards. I've been re-reading them, listening and contemplating tons of commentary about them, and unpacking and re-mixing ways to approach them. And the more I dive in, and the more I reflect, and the more I internalize and absorb them, the bigger fan I am of adopting Common Core.
I could probably list twenty reasons why this is the case, but instead I’ll focus right now on a lean and pertinent two:
1) The death knell for weak multiple-choice tests has been sounded.
Hooray, I say! Though I’m not sure who among us isn’t happy to hear this chime begin to ring throughout the national educational kingdom.
As many of us know, NCLB brought us a plague of poor assessments (perhaps the peak of it can be found here). Over the past decade, standardized tests have become the unfortunate tail that wags the schoolhouse dog. Principals have been fired over poor test results, teachers have been publicly ostracized—and terminated—over poor test results. The resistance that has been vociferously shouting, “Your tests stink as student performance measures and are doing more harm than good!” is about to see the notch of victory etched into their collective belts.
Common Core is too complex, too rich, too demanding, and too forward thinking to be captured in a mere A, B, C, or D form of student assessment. In fact, our nation is seeing a bold new series of groups (namely, this one and this one) build better student evaluation mousetraps. Some of the ideas I’ve seen kicked around have me smiling at the notion that, “Hey, this ain’t your momma’s rote memory, lower-level Bloom’s type of test anymore.”
The coming assessments are going to be adaptive, multi-layered, trans-media, technology-based (of course), and far more insightful in terms of actually getting to see what a student really knows.
And yes, they are going to be much more challenging, as well. Which leads me to my second cause for celebration:
2) The overall academic challenges our students will face will be much more demanding, but more relevant as well.
Common Core will raise the bar and though there are skeptics—some of who make some credible points—on the whole, I believe that Common Core is a progression.
- Common Core puts a premium on writing...
- Common Core puts a premium on re-reading and close reading...
- Common Core recognizes the interdependent relationship between reading and writing, and focuses on students being able to read well and then write (cogently) in response to what they have read...
- Common Core places a premium on all of the aforementioned occurring in an interdisciplinary capacity—across all disciplines, across all grade levels…
…unlike any standards we’ve ever had.
This is “life tools beyond the K-12 classroom” stuff. After all, as so much data shows, people who read well and write well attain a sense of success in America that transcends mere income.
Highly literate people:
- Vote more.
- Are incarcerated less.
- Play a more active role in the community.
- Live longer lives.
...And so on.
See, Common Core isn’t shying away from asking more from many American students than our classrooms have been traditionally asking of them. “Raising expectations” used to be an empty buzz phrase that admins would casually toss around at their cozy district offices. With Common Core, expectations have been raised. And for some folks, the actual sight of this is terrifying.
Being somewhat afraid is a good thing. In a way, American schools have become somewhat stale, and those butterflies we’re feeling in our bellies are a sign that BIG CHANGE is coming. I’m not alone in thinking that the United States has become too comfortable and too filled with a sense of self-entitlement, and that this sense of national hubris could be the trigger, which precedes a great fall.
Our schools can certainly be more demanding. Common Core plans to tackle this issue head on.
Ultimately, I guess I don’t really have a problem with higher expectations. However, I do have a problem with unrealistic expectations. If Common Core doesn’t provide the PD and adequate resources, and instead takes a page out of NCLB’s playbook and merely wants to shame teachers with dubious data without actually making a genuine effort to help them improve their craft, then this blog is going to have a different tenor a few years from now.
That’s a promise.
But as the old saying goes, “Don’t fall before you are pushed.” We have risen to new heights before. Why pre-suppose that we aren’t capable of doing it again?
Common Core, you hold the promise of a new tomorrow—and it’s the time of year when thinking about new tomorrows excites me.