Secretary Arne Duncan would have the world believe that the Common Core standards are opposed only by extremists and people who believe in flying saucers.
But it is not true.
While much of the energy against the Common Core has come from Tea Party people who fear a federal takeover of public schools, there are also thoughtful critics on the left side of the political spectrum. I would begin by mentioning Susan Ohanian and Stephen Krashen, for starters. And I would add myself, as I am appalled by the way the standards were imposed without any trials in real classrooms and without any real discussion or debate.
For a succinct summary of the progressive argument against the Common Core, read this editorial by Rethinking Schools.
The editorial looks at the Common Core through the prism of the disaster that is NCLB. The heavy emphasis on high-stakes tests succeeded mainly in labeling schools as failing when they had high concentrations of children with high needs.
“The same heavy-handed, top-down policies that forced adoption of the standards require use of the Common Core tests to evaluate educators. This inaccurate and unreliable practice will distort the assessments before they’re even in place and make Common Core implementation part of the assault on the teaching profession instead of a renewal of it. The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year plus the computer platforms needed to administer and score them, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things. The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color. If, as proposed, the Common Core’s “college and career ready” performance level becomes the standard for high school graduation, it will push more kids out of high school than it will prepare for college.
This is not just cynical speculation. It is a reasonable projection based on the history of the NCLB decade, the dismantling of public education in the nation’s urban centers, and the appalling growth of the inequality and concentrated poverty that remains the central problem in public education.”
And the editorial concludes by saying:
“Common Core has become part of the corporate reform project now stalking our schools. Unless we dismantle and defeat this larger effort, Common Core implementation will become another stage in the demise of public education. As schools struggle with these new mandates, we should defend our students, our schools, our communities, and ourselves by telling the truth about the Common Core. This means pushing back against implementation timelines and plans that set schools up to fail, resisting the stakes and priority attached to the tests, and exposing the truth about the commercial and political interests shaping and benefiting from this false panacea for the problems our schools face.
Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. Too many standards projects have been efforts to move decisions about teaching and learning away from classrooms, educators, and school communities, only to put them in the hands of distant bureaucracies. Standards have often codified sanitized versions of history, politics, and culture that reinforce official myths while leaving out the voices, concerns, and realities of our students and communities. Whatever positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what our schools should teach and children should learn has been repeatedly undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.
Unfortunately there’s been too little honest conversation and too little democracy in the development of the Common Core. We see consultants and corporate entrepreneurs where there should be parents and teachers, and more high-stakes testing where there should be none. Until that changes, it will be hard to distinguish the “next big thing” from the last one.”
Secretary Duncan, these are not the ravings of lunatics who watch for black helicopters in the sky. These are the observations of educators who are concerned about the well-being of children and the survival of public education. Attention should be paid.