Saturday, January 18, 2014

Still More on the Core

The two previous posts here at Right Detour argued that some kind of common core standards and curriculum, even a national one, makes sound pedagogical sense.

Is the Common Core State Standards proposed by the Obama Administration the right one?

An assessment of that sort is above my level of competence.

Some thoughts . . . even if some of them are not mine.

Critics have argued that the CCSS on reading diminish literature through their emphasis on non-fiction writing. Their conclusions seem rest upon the "exemplars" provided in the CCSS for teaching reading skills. In some cases, only "excerpts" from great works of literature are recommended. However, these are only exemplars.States can assigned the complete works if they so choose. In addition, many reading skills standards pertain to non-fiction writing such as science or history. On the one hand, this is a positive note. Reading skills in different knowledge domains differ. On the other hand, devoting time in English class to reading science and history does take away from literature. The obvious solution (at least is seems obvious to me--a layman) is for states to write curriculum that place the development of reading skills for scientific materials in science classes and for historical writing or documents in history or social studies classes. Probably most states already do this.

Critics also have argued that the CCSS for mathematics are too low. Professor Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers for the CCSS math standards both acknowledged and defended it:  The standards will prepare students “for the colleges most kids go to, but not for the college most parents aspire to.” Other members of the CCSS validation committee refused to sign off after the completion of the development of the standards. Critics point out that Massachusetts, California, and Georgia had state standards that exceeded those of CCSS.

On the other hand, many states have seen their scores drop after the first assessment tests under the CCSS, including Kentucky, New York, Minnesota, and Georgia. Why is this? First, the assessment tools might be faulty. The official CCSS assessments will not be out until next year. To prepare for them, however, many states have designed their own assessments. There is no obvious reason, however,  why state departments of education should be judged inept on this score. Second, the curriculum may not be so closely aligned with that standards. Students will experience difficulty succeeding on a test that does not measure what they have actually learned in class. Finally,  it could mean the students in those states simply were not as bright as everyone thought.

With all these uncertainties ( and the incredible expense involved), rushing to implement CCSS seems unwise. The standards have never been tested. This is one of the reservations expressed by CCSS supporter E. D. Hirsch and one of the chief reasons respected educator Diane Ravitch opposes them outright. In my company (retail) we roll out new programs as "pilots" for months before implementing them company wide. Perhaps the CCSS should have been piloted in several states before foisting them nationwide.

It seem the only program the Obama administration seemed more eager to rush was the debacle of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

We do not need another debacle.

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