Deliberate Confusion About the Common Core

Colorado has become the latest state to suffer a brouhaha over the Common Core State Standards, due primarily to a push by a group of people who don’t understand the Common Core. I suspect many of them have not even bothered to examine the standards and think through their objections. In an article in the Denver Post, educators who should know better are complaining that the standards will result in a “de facto curriculum” that must be taught.

It’s true that states are developing (or more often, purchasing) standardized tests based on the expectations of the Common Core. The educators and parents who are complaining about testing driving teaching are absolutely correct, but that is not the purpose of Common Core. They are conflating testing with standards, and it’s confusing everyone — especially reporters who understand little about education.

At their heart, taking out all the specifics about non-fiction text and “new approaches to math,” the Common Core Standards aim to help clarify the bigger picture of multiple literacies. Mathematical and verbal language literacies are the ostensible focus of the standards released so far, but what the writers have created is a system of thinking about literacy centered on higher thinking skills in all areas of study — including science, social studies, and the arts.

If the protesting, self-described “Moms” waving “No Common Core” placards at the Colorado state capitol took the time to actually examine the Anchor Standards that connect all grade levels, I doubt they would object so loudly. Why would they not want their children to be able to read various types of “text” (including dance, visual art, music, and multi-media)? Why would they not want them to acquire and use language with clarity and accuracy, and to be able to listen and speak knowledgeably and critically? Why would they not want their children to look for and be able to point out supporting details and evidence to back up their assertions?

The more cynical minds out there might suggest that many of these objectors are Tea Partiers, whose very last desire would be for their children to be able to see through their flimsy arguments in favor of discrimination, repression, and a “maker/taker” view of society. There may well be some of that going on. There is certainly a misplaced hysteria over what these folks claim is a “top-down” approach (none of the others have been?) and “governmental control of education.”

The people who made the decision to establish standardized testing as the measure for student success and teacher evaluations are not educators. They are politicians. They used to work for us. Now they work for the big textbook and test manufacturers. If you don’t like testing, don’t blame Common Core. Vote for someone else.


About rbdancer

Randy has been a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist and Workshop Leader since 1995. During 35 years as a teaching artist, he has led over 300 in-depth workshops, courses, and seminars for teachers and teaching artists, traveling to 37 states in the process. As a choreographer and professional dancer, Randy has danced and produced dance concerts in some of the country's most storied theaters. Randy now lives with his wife in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northeastern New Mexico.
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2 Responses to Deliberate Confusion About the Common Core

  1. stephen rothman says:

    National standards are fine. However, these standards are assuming all children are raised in the same socio-economic environment. We have kids coming from socio-economic situations far different from what the standards speak to. When Florida passed its new version of the FCAT, it refused to recognize that at least 29 percent of all students taking it would fail based on an analysis made by Orange County educators. If you are going to develop a system that meets the needs of all — and not just the few — then these differences must be taken into consideration. At present, they are not thus parents of these children , and a lot of educators, are questioning who and how and why the standards were put together without considering these important differences.

    • rbdancer says:

      This is a very perceptive comment, in that few people are discussing the fact that children mature and learn at different rates from one another. The factory system we have now assumes that each child is interchangeable with the next. That’s not a standards issue, that’s a school design problem.

      In fact, the Common Core standards LEVEL the playing field for students of ALL ethnic, socioeconomic, and developmental descriptions. The factory system wants every child to learn at the same moment, in the same way. Constructivist classrooms encourage active and experiential learning, collaboration, reflective thinking, and ever-evolving levels of challenge by creating authentic problems for students to solve individually and in groups. You can use any standards you like, local or national, but if you do not bring all students into the game, you are not truly engaged in teaching and learning.

      I have been planning to make the unfairness of the socioeconomic bias of testing the subject of an upcoming post, ever since I saw the horror that is the Texas 3rd-grade math testing process. Again, we must not confuse the issues here, or we won’t get anywhere.

      It is not the standards that divide students by race and class, it is the tests.

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