Tom Scarice, the superintendent of the Madison, Connecticut, public schools, writes that the campaign for the Common Core has been waged with fear tactics, mainly the fear that other nations have higher scores and will therefore “beat” us. But, he points out, citing the work of Yong Zhao, there is no connection between test scores and economic growth.
“Reducing the debate of the common core to a matter of implementation is intellectually weak. A number of other matters remain unresolved. The standards were never field tested with actual students. They have been largely influenced through massive donations via powerful philanthropic organizations such as the Gates Foundation, creating a chilling question about the consequential influence of one billionaire on our education system. Questions about whether or not the standards are appropriate for our youngest and most fragile learners have been raised by over 500 nationally recognized early childhood experts, and special education organizations. Categorically, no evidence exists to support the stance that the common core will raise the achievement of our most impoverished students, which is the most pressing challenge facing Connecticut. Education is much too complex to reduce our work to another futile silver bullet.
“Connecticut has had academic standards for decades. Academic standards, developed by education professionals, are largely embraced by educators. They serve to set clear expectations for the accountability of learning and form the basis of curriculum. However, the rigidity of the common core, mandating that each and every student achieve the same learning progressions, regardless of learning style, and individual learning profile, at the exact same rate, contribute to the epidemic of standardization and homogenization that has afflicted our schools for the past decade. This is particularly concerning when the global marketplace and the demands of citizenship in this era clearly necessitate an individual’s diversity of thought and skills.
“All that said, even within the broken testing and evaluation systems suffocating our schools, there are many individual standards within the common core that are worthy of academic pursuit. Districts would be best served to approach the common core with thoughtful analysis of the potential efficacy and appropriateness of each individual standard as they integrate them into curriculum. Plausible rejection of individual standards by local professional educators must be shared transparently with Boards of Education and the local community, backed up with appropriate justification. As always, healthy skepticism and deep analysis serve systems well. Every state and every district has multiple indicators of student success. What would local accountability look like beyond one tightly coupled measure to the common core? Is student success defined by performance on the SBAC, and if not, will local districts have the fortitude to move beyond the narrow, inadequate comparisons that are provided by standardized assessments?There is more to the story of student success beyond the implementation of the common core.”