common core state standards Archives - The Jose Vilson

common core state standards

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.




I was recently asked to write for the Education Funders Research Initiative, a collective of education funders and researchers from around New York City, and their first question was, “Is New York City ready for Common Core implementation?” Of course, I saw plenty of problems with this statement:

Right now, however, I don’t see how New York City, much less our state, can meet or exceed the expectations laid out for us as a result of the Core nor get students “college and career ready.” Academic standards are only as effective as the organizational standards we hold for our system, and currently, we still have far too many structural issues. For one, curriculum publishers still work under the auspices of the previous way of thinking about instruction: “If we slap a sticker on our textbooks and say they’re Common Core, districts will pick it up and they won’t know any better.” Developing coherent curriculum is far more than just following the textbook. Teachers have to develop their own materials to accompany and bolster any textbook, new and old.

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Are Common Core Arguments Too Coddled? OMGLOL Yes.

by Jose Vilson on November 24, 2013

in Jose

Drake Laughing

Drake Laughing

Since the last time I spoke on the Common Core State Standards, people have started to stockpile arguments for or against them. Everything from “suck it up, life is tough” to “kids need recess, and a recess from CCSS” have been put to the fore, with the occasional #corespiracy coming from libertarians and people who hate anything Barack Obama brings as a solution, and I mean anything. I’ll hear nonsense like “The CCSS is like what happened to the Tuskegee Airmen” or “I don’t know why I don’t like the CCSS, but I’m just doing God’s work” and laugh because of the privilege this assumes. I’m also not willing to negotiate with Teabaggers over any sort of protest, even if I find even a strand of agreement with them.

Hence, my lens, my bias, is towards those who otherwise don’t get to speak, who actually want a solution that makes sense for all students, not just the students we treat like lab rats for our little experiments.

For example, I see lots of people use the term “developmentally inappropriate,” which Dan Willingham breaks down rather well here. Then I got to thinking about why I first supported Common Core, too. Sometimes, “developmentally appropriate” sounds like code language for “These kids can’t do this work.” Thus, you could have a situation where some teachers are doing multiplication tables with certain students as an in-depth activity in the eight grade, or never exposing certain students to Baldwin or Shakespeare in high school because “they just won’t appreciate it.” In my head, I find myself snickering, saying “How do you know?”

On the other end, a columnist like Frank Bruni will call our children “coddled” by adults who want everyone to win and never or fight for anything. From my purview, it negates the 1.4 million homeless children in our school system, and the privilege of knowing that, for some children, when they lose, they have enough safety nets that it doesn’t really feel like failure. In one neighborhood, when a child fails, they get tutoring and their parents have the means / influence to speak up as one of their last resorts in case their child doesn’t get a good grade. In another, when a child fails, they’re seen as just another victim of their environment, not worth saving, with tiers of bureaucracy meant to temper down influence, especially if they don’t look like they have anything to say.

I want the best possible education for my students. I want higher expectations, rigorous and thoughtful discussions in classes, and a baseline curriculum that grants access to all students to jobs, learning, and freedom via knowledge. My argument will always be that you can’t make history without having known it. However, learning for proficiency is not the enemy of learning for learning’s sake. Friend Steve Lazar once told me he wants to teach a student something first and foremost because it’s damn good, then because it matches some pre-ordained objective.

Our current CCSS obsession proffers arguments that sound like we’re reading off pamphlets, less like we genuinely have read the standards and the accompanying documents. If you’re going to make a good argument, make it. Please. If you’re for or against the exorbitant amount of testing, accountability measures, and wayward curriculum this comes with, say that. If you’re just trying to make it work because you’re in the classroom and you feel like you can’t do anything about it, that’s fine too. The average teacher feels this, and not enough of the people making these arguments take this into account.

As colleague Michael Doyle has said, “Searching for “the middle” is pointless–search for truth and let it fall where it will.” Let’s have a disagreement, but make it make sense for the people on the ground. Otherwise, you might be coddled into your corner, too.


Changing The Language From Anti-Testing To Pro-Whole Child

September 12, 2013 Jose
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I like getting into discussions with people who like saying “Jose, why are you against testing?” Let me lay out the argument and the reason why, instead of referring to myself as anti-testing, I’m calling myself pro-whole-child. The argument is that testing isn’t bad. We should have experts who look at the lay of the […]

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Short Notes: With Tears and Cheers

July 7, 2013 Short Notes
Mona Eltahawy

A few notes: Edutopia highlights five, count em, FIVE books I think you should read. Just go. Read em if you haven’t already. [Edutopia] When discussing the path of citizenship, this is what really matters. Five fifths human. [Los Angeles Times] The New York Times editorial board thinks there should be changes made to the […]

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Short Notes: On The Backs of Black and Brown Children

April 7, 2013 Short Notes

A few notes: Sherman Dorn highlights some misconceptions about the Common Core State Standards. [Sherman Dorn] Rania Khalel says public education reform is being done on the backs of Black and Brown children. I tend to agree. [Dispatches from the Underclass] William Hood’s story about Dr. Martin Luther King gave me the jitters. [New York […]

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