Here’s a nice calm defense of the Common Core State Standards from a teacher. It reflects the experience I have seen so far. Some excerpts:
Since the Common Core State Standards emerged, people I respect have come out in opposition in a way that reminds me of a book from my childhood: The Monster at the End of This Book. In this classic, Sesame Street’s Grover begs us not to turn the pages, lest we unleash the monster at the end. He becomes increasingly agitated, building walls and threatening us as we get closer to the end. His panic sounds a lot like what I hear from some of my colleagues in the educational community.
They warn of standardization, the end of creativity and context and policies that throw whole communities under the “test is best” bus that is modern educational policy. They have some good points, but I don’t think we can pin them all on the common standards. We can point to state policymakers who lead from fear and cynicism, sure. We can point to school leaders who hide behind a mysterious “they” when espousing bad pedagogy. We can acknowledge hostile context—the common core exists in a maelstrom of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top policies that lead state departments of education to adhere to overly-prescriptive curricula, revised (but still stifling) “common-core-aligned” textbooks and one long national nightmare of assessments used in ways even their designers don’t suggest. Those problems certainly exist within our system.
But the common core isn’t the system—it’s part of the system. We—the teachers, parents, students and leaders—are part of it too, and we have more power than we realize.
I know it’s possible because I see public school teachers doing it already. The teachers I coach in our “Critical Skills Program” are creating problem-based learning experiences for students that combine not only the kinds of content knowledge that educators agree kids should learn, but also the skills and dispositions that kids need to succeed in life, like communication, collaboration, curiosity, organization, and problem solving. These teachers are exploring ways to use technology to deepen problem solving and facilitate communication by and with students. More than that, they’re discovering (or rediscovering) their best professional selves—the teachers they dreamed of being when they decided to enter the profession.