Just My Imagination Running Away With Me (A Post-CCSS World)

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose5 Comments

The Temptations

The Temptations

I‘ve seen this article in my e-mails and feeds no less than ten times this morning. Much of this is old news for me since, if you’ve put all the pieces together for the last four years, it’s fairly obvious just how invested Bill Gates has been in getting Common Core State Standards moved across different desks. It’s also obvious how many folks, from union leaders to business leaders, have put their hat in at least some part of the CCSS ring. The publishers, as I expected, are having a field decade with the CCSS because, they don’t necessarily need to care whether people get it. Districts will unconsciously still pay up for outside expertise.

Yet, the push-and-pullback against the CCSS has been palpable. Opponents on the left and right have joined forces on a small set of issues related to CCSS, specifically the overemphasis on testing and student data privacy, things that pre-date CCSS, but that have been conjoined with CCSS implementation agreements. State after state keep dropping from CCSS allegiance. Regardless of “who” you root for in the CCSS debate, it seems that there needs to be a conversation about what happens if CCSS collapses.

What will you fill the CCSS “gap” with if it goes away?

This question has the feel of “Well, what’s your religion?” There’s a whole set of educators who’ve been following the Dewey-Meier model for some time already have an idea of where things might go. Others who lean on the E.D. Hirsch / Core Knowledge works may still fall back on a CCSS-like structure because that framework depends on a knowledge base from which learning arises. There are so many frameworks to choose from that it begs the question as to why these two are the only camps that have actually proffered theirs.

In other words, we can’t just say no to everything.

From a math lens, as much as I dislike the way CCSS came about, I also don’t want children of color (!) to only learn multiplication tables in the 10th grade. In literacy, we need a balance of fiction and non-fiction texts, but they can’t all be from the “normal” canon, meaning we need more diverse books, not just from one dominant perspective.

As my readers know, I have legitimate concerns about the Common Core. But, in the midst of protests and pullbacks, I’m already seeing a scenario where states that pull back are simply replicating CCSS and giving it another name. This leads me to believe that the discussion isn’t in the “what,” but the “how.” Again.

I imagine that more folks will find their edu-beliefs rooted somewhere because, otherwise, the people squarely in the CCSS camp win. If folks can’t work towards a better set of standards and curricula than the CCSS, then they’ve lost. I imagine that we can do better than no, but it might be just my imagination, running away with me.


Comments 5

  1. While I personally advocate the Deweyan/Meier model, what I really want is for teachers, students, parents, and principals, to be able to design whatever school eorks for them; and to fund those things instead of funding extra buearcracy and assessments we know don’t serve teaching and learning.

    What I do think is that some of those other camps have spent some tie “aligning themselves” to the CCSS so as not to “go extinct.”

    I think there’s room for teaching standards (aren’t these our credentials?), but LEARNING standards are misplaced.
    You can fairly judge me on what I do, but not on how 30 young souls interpret what I do.

  2. Hi Jose,

    One of the many confusing aspects of this is that math and ELA/Literacy have very different issues. I’m not qualified to judge the math standards, but the consensus seems to be that they represent yet another attempt to reconcile the various threads of math instruction and politics, this time in a big hurry, with higher stakes tests, in an overall political climate that favors obstructionism. In a different context, with a much slower, more careful, low-stakes rollout, they might be fine. Regardless, yes, in math, if the CCSS fails, the alternative is a not-very different variation coming down the pike in a few years. Either that or a complete re-think of the discipline of mathematics in primary and secondary education from first principles, which seems unlikely.

    On the other hand, the ELA/Literacy standards are just poorly put together and heavily pitched in a way that has confused all discussion. For example, the proportion of non-fiction students read is simply not an issue that is, can or should be covered by the standards — it is just out of scope — so why are we talking about it? Another example, the CC standards are unique in that they include disciplinary literacy standards for History/Social Studies, yet their rigid structure precludes actually including what the research on disciplinary literacy the CC standard cites as essential features — evaluating the source (not the text itself) and interpreting the text based on historical context (beyond the text itself).

    And the biggest practical issue — amping up the complexity of texts and academic tasks in the early elementary grades — has essentially no base in research and defies decades of experience.

    I’m not a huge fan of the MCAS system, but Massachusetts previous curriculum was more similar to those of other high performing countries and provinces than the Common Core is, and clearly helped put Massachusetts in the top rank globally. Not everyone would be pleased with going back to the best of what we had developed over the previous couple decades, but it is not a strange or difficult decision.

  3. Having grown up in Detroit during the Motown era, and spent many wonderful afternoons hanging out in front of the original studio, I thank you for the pic and the theme song……

    Oh yeah, about Common Core, I tend to agree with you and Tom Hoffman’s take on this so-called debate. Many on the right end of the opposition are there are out of sheer, old-fashioned racism and many on the left, as you note, are good at opposition but short on alternatives. @Adam makes an interesting point, however. If we (U.S. society) took the credentialing of teachers more seriously, and held the professional work of teachers in higher esteem, we would trust those who teach to develop curriculum and set learning goals for and with students on a more personal and individualized level. Since teachers and our expertise were intentionally marginalized in the development of CCSS and its implementation, I really didn’t expect them to swim, and will feel no great loss when they sink. #BallofConfusion

  4. Jose,
    I appreciate your thoughtful reflections on the Common Core controversy. I was just reflecting on it myself, and I agree that we as a nation need to be YES people about education reform. If someone as powerful (and rich) as Bill Gates is willing to fund major education reform in a country whose education system has significant problems, we need to work with him to make it happen in a way that best benefits the most important factor in the equation: students. I want to believe that the Gates Foundation is motivated more by altruism than political ambition. I hope I’m right.

  5. Rebecca,

    One thing to keep in mind is that many reform critics, including myself, have worked with Gates and other big foundations in the past, and one way or another been burned by the experience. In my case, Gates gave my colleagues and I a lot of money to create a small neighborhood high school in Providence, and then after Gates decided they weren’t interested in small schools, we were hung out to try and closed, even as our test scores shot up and we had the highest college enrollment and retention of any neighborhood high school in the city.

    Now, you can’t blame Gates directly for our school being closed, but I think it is emblematic of their particular problem. That is, how can a massive private foundation — but still small in budget compared to overall government spending — improve education across the country in a measurable way in a short time frame? I think the short answer is turning out to be that it is impossible or extremely difficult, but in the meantime, they’re going to thrash around from one increasingly disruptive option to the next, in increasing frustration.

    In this respect, Gates is different than a lot of the more ideological foundations. Gates has a definite point of view, but they aren’t like Broad or Walton or many of the others, which essentially have always wanted to disassemble public education. Gates has just drifted that way over time out of frustration, and it is hard to see what will stop that process.

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