In previous posts on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I’ve written about the consequences of federal overreach, which, in itself, is a strong argument against the nationally imposed standards. Unfortunately, this argument is unconvincing for teachers, who have been led to believe these standards will give them more instructional flexibility and ultimately will help students make academic gains.
The following two quotes about CCSS reflect these widely held beliefs.
They are not a curriculum; it’s up to school districts to choose curricula that comply with the standards.
—Kathleen Porter-Magee and Sol Stern
Not exactly. Though it’s true that Common Core is just a set of standards, curriculum is informed by assessment. If the assessment is Common Core, the curriculum is Common Core. School districts buy curriculum sets (textbooks, workbooks, reading materials, etc.) that reflect the standards and prepare students for assessments. This ultimately gives teachers less instructional flexibility.
The promise of these high standards for all students is extraordinary.
—Former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
If only. As a teacher, I would have loved to set the same high bar for ALL of my students. But the truth is, not every student has the same readiness for learning. Last year, one of my 13-year-old students scored a 30 on the ACT. Would I set the same high bar for this student and a student who had just tested at a fourth-grade reading level? No, I would differentiate instruction, meaning I would assign a project with varying degrees of difficulty and interest-based learning.
The problem is not “setting the bar high enough,” it’s the challenge of scaffolding instruction to fill in the gaps where there is missed learning. Sure, setting a high bar for every child sounds great, but without instructional flexibility, how will teachers make decisions that best suit the needs of their students?
They won’t. Even if setting a high bar for all students did increase academic achievement, there is still some debate about whether the Common Core even does that. If Missouri really wants to see students make academic gains, we should trust teachers to do their job well, and reward the ones that do.