A long time ago, when NCLB ruled the land and the wicked STAR determined the fate of the endangered, I sat at a table and talked with the more seasoned of my staff. They looked at a me with eyes of knowledge and in their own way they said,
“Young Padawan, this too shall pass. For over five score yarens the mission of public education has been re-interpreted by those that wear bad suits and answer to the mighty ballot. We will end the cycle that is NCLB, and we will move to something else, and to something else, and to something else, and the circle will never end. To excel in teaching you must make sure that you use your skills, follow your feelings, and actually teach what is in the students’ best interest to know. If you look into The Eye, the horrible Eye of standardized instruction, you will only go mad with its never-ending adjustment and it’s promises that at the end of the new curriculum rainbow is eternal life, 99 virgins, and all the delicious cabernet that you can drink. No. Stay the course, my friend. Teach, and know that your stability, ingenuity, and educational integrity will reign supreme in the eyes of the most important; those that are being taught!”
They were oh-so-correct. I remember being freaked out early-on by NCLB and it wasn’t until I started reading educational blogs and reading twitter that I realized that the best didn’t care about the standards. They cared about the teaching.
Which leads us to the recent news about the new (and predicted) Common Core Standards! They will save us!
“Test scores in New York state, its first under tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and math, show sharp declines in student performance in grades 3-8 for the 2012-13 school year, as officials try to assure parents that the new scores don't reflect a major drop in students' academic understanding, just tougher performance standards.
Statewide, the statewide ELA proficiency rates dropped from 55.1 percent on the non-common-core-aligned exams from the 2011-12 school year, to 31.1 percent in the 2012-13 school year. In math, the proficiency rates declined from 64.8 percent to 31 percent.”
The edu-wonks are in full boar response mode now. Political saber rattling, back-tracking, blame-gaming. It’s back to being all about the test. Except, wait a minute…..
“For the first time in several years, California students' performance declined on their state assessments, the Standardized Testing and Reporting exams (or STAR) in English/language arts and math this year, although the drops were significantly less dramatic than in New York.The Sacramento Bee has the numbers: Statewide, 51.2 percent of students in grades 2-11 tested in math were proficient, off very slightly from 51.5 percent last year, while in English, the proficiency rate dipped from 57.2 to 56.4. Math test scores had previously increased for five straight years, while English scores had climbed for the last eight years.”
Oops. Looks like the last year of STAR testing didn’t quite go off so well either. Dammit California. Now the reasons that are being presented here are simple “transition to Common Core” and “budget cuts.” Maybe. I have another theory.
Here’s the deal. Teaching under No Child Left Behind was a nightmare for most districts. While the accountability and the data presented were awesome, the standards assumed the impossible (everyone can be proficient in Math and English) and told everyone that if this didn’t occur by X date, there would be consequences to everyone…….except for the student. So the atmosphere for many was one that didn’t promote education, it promoted test taking and having public educators trying to bribe young kids with everything from cash to baseball tickets to ice cream to iPods. After the greatest budget crisis since the Depression, the fudging of data, social-media “cheating alerts”, and various major scandals all over the country, out went NCLB and in came Common Core, with the theme of more open instruction, more focus on writing, and the idea of “college and career ready.” And you know what the reaction from most teachers is at this point to Common Core?
They don’t care.
“We will end the cycle that is
NCLBCommon Core, and we will move to something else, and to something else, and to something else, and the circle will never end. To excel in teaching you must make sure that you use your skills, follow your feelings, and actually teach what is in their best interest to know.”
Teachers want to teach. They want to be passionate about kids, want to watch kids succeed, and want to see those teachers that aren’t passionate get run through a wood chipper. Common Core does nothing for that. Common Core does nothing at all except give another way to teach subject matter that good teachers already know how to do, only once again they will have to use colorful language (along with precious time and energy) to prove that they do it. I see “Unit Planning for Common Core” in professional development and it makes me look for bottle of 18 year Glenlivet and a straw. Seriously, you are going to have a good veteran teacher spend time on Unit Plans that work, by making sure that they align to standards that are not a lot different than previous standards but probably require more evidence that they do align, some how. Know why? Because. So everyone is going to go ga-ga over Common Core until something else changes. In the meantime the good teachers will make the small necessary changes (little or nothing) and impact kids lives. The waste of time and productivity will be astounding.
Look around. Teachers feel marginalized and totally screwed by a system that uses political efficiency to manufacture what the problem is within Education. Teachers try to tell people but they are ignored because it isn’t sexy to place a mirror in front of society and say “Hey look, we are the problem.” Instead the curriculum is changed and teachers, especially young ones, are left with the taste in their mouth that a social contract has been broken over and over again; I teach passionately with every fiber of my being, and you work as society to create the best environment for successful children.
Fix the social contract and you’ll fix education. Fix that social contract and “test scores” will go up. Fix that social contract or you are in danger of losing a generation of really good teachers.