I have neither endorsed nor rejected the Common Core national standards, for one simple reason: They are being rolled out in 45 states without a field trial anywhere. How can I say that I love them or like them or hate them when I don’t know how they will work when they reach the nation’s classrooms?
In 2009, I went to an event sponsored by the Aspen Institute where Dane Linn, one of the project directors for developing the standards, described the process. I asked if they intended to pilot test them, and I did not get a “yes” answer. The standards were released early in 2010. By happenstance, I was invited to the White House to meet with the head of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, the President’s education advisor, and Rahm Emanuel. When asked what I thought of the standards, I suggested that they should be tried out in three or four or five states first, to work out the bugs. They were not interested.
I have worked on state standards in various states. When the standards are written, no one knows how they will work until teachers take them and teach them. When you get feedback from teachers, you find out what works and what doesn’t work. You find out that some content or expectations are in the wrong grade level; some are too hard for that grade, and some are too easy. And some stuff just doesn’t work at all, and you take it out.
The Common Core will be implemented in 45 states without that kind of trial. No one knows if they will raise expectations and achievement, whether they will have no effect, whether they will depress achievement, or whether they will be so rigorous that they increase the achievement gaps.
Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution thinks they won’t matter.
The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which received large grants from the Gates Foundation to evaluate the standards and has supported them vigorously, estimates that the cost of implementing them will be between $1 billion and $8.3 billion. The conservative Pioneer Institute estimates that the cost of implementation would be about $16 billion, and suggests this figure is a “mid-range” estimate.
The Gates Foundation, lest we forget, paid to develop the standards, paid to evaluate the standards, and is underwriting Pearson’s program to create online courses and resources for the standards, which will be sold by Pearson, for a profit, to schools across the nation.
Of course, every textbook publisher now says that its products are aligned with the Common Core standards, and a bevy of consultants have come out of the woodwork to teach everyone how to teach them.
In these times of austerity, I wonder how much money districts and states have available to implement the standards faithfully. I wonder how much money they will put into professional development. I wonder about the quality of the two new assessments that the U.S. Department of Education laid out $350 million for.
These are things I wonder. But how can I possibly pass judgment until I find out how the standards work in real classrooms with real children and real teachers?