Various South Dakota Tea Party folks (bothersomely anonymous on their website and Facebook page, so I can only assume they are South Dakotans) are raising fuss and feathers over the Common Core standards. I wouldn't mind if they got some traction: the Common Core standards do more to distract my teaching colleagues and my administrators from making your kids smarter than to help us improve our daily practical public service.
But when the opponents' complaints include the fact that the South Dakota Department of Education has changed its Common Core logo from a sort of Howard Johnson's blue-orange spirograph to a snappy red flame with eye-catching text, I can only shake my head.
If the Tea Partiers really want to challenge Common Core, they should focus on analyzing and refuting the propaganda offered by Common Core backers like Pam Haukaas, president of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. Her May 8 column (part of an increasing flow of Common Core explications and defenses I'm seeing from South Dakota education officials, an apparent effort to counter the surging Glenn Beck karaoke against the standards) cloaks the Common Core standards in all sorts of glowing statements that are really backhanded insults to the work we teachers work hard to do independently of whatever bureaucratic distractions the powers in Pierre impose upon us.
Students won’t just memorize facts, but will be able to master increasingly difficult problems and text [Pam Haukaas, "What Is Common Core?" ASBSD: Open Forum, 2013.05.08].
This statement fails on three levels:
- It implies that we teachers are just making students memorize facts right now. That implication is wrong.
- In addition to the problem-solving and critical thinking that we teach regularly without Common Core, we do teach a fair amount of memorizing facts. What's wrong with memorizing some facts? For instance, on page 60 of my French 2 textbook, I give my students a list of sixteen French verbs that use être instead of avoir has their past tense helping verb. I don't need them to think critically about that; I need them to memorize that list so they can get on with building sentences, telling stories, and engaging in conversations.
- The Common Core standards don't magically make fact-memorization go away or make kids better at reading tougher texts. Good teachers will keep doing that, as we have been since before Common Core was born to recodify our professional practices.
As districts begin to implement these standards, professional development time will be required for teachers to become familiar with the standards and to collaborate with peers to design district appropriate curricula [Haukaas, 2013.05.08].
Translation for Tea Partiers: Your school district will spend time and your money pulling teachers away from your kids and your classrooms to spend time reinventing the pretty good curriculum wheels they already have.
The Common Core will focus on the student as learners with teachers teaching for understanding and mastery of core areas [Haukaas, 2013.05.08].
Focus on the student as learners—not only does that sentence lack number agreement (one student is multiple learners?), but it doesn't say anything new. Did we not focus on students as learners pre-Common Core? Hasn't learning always been our main enterprise? Don't we always teach for understanding? Haven't we already built our curricula around mastery of core areas? This isn't a brave new world forged by Common Core; this is the kind of fluff folks in education (including, sometimes, we teachers) start saying to ourselves when we have to make the latest, greatest education reform sound like some new and useful revolution.
No longer will a text be followed from page one simply plodding through until the end; teachers will use multiple resources so that students will experience a curriculum which has meaning as well as depth and rigor. Students will develop the ability to apply learned knowledge to solve new problems and think critically [Haukaas, 2013.05.08].
Again, the insulting implication is that teachers right now plod through their textbooks, and that Common Core standards will save your children from such dull incompetence. Au contraire: I get the distinct impression that the whole point of Common Core is to make curriculum more uniform across the state and across the country. Common Core is supposed to make it easier for children to move from school district to school district without discontinuities in their learning. That advantage accrues only if different school districts align the scope and sequence of their classes more closely to standards. Publishers will provide textbooks closely aligned to the standards, complete with recommendations for and links to multimedia resources to satisfy Common Core. To thus prove their fidelity to Common Core, teachers and administrators will stick even more closely to their new textbooks with the little tabs on each page proving exactly which standards we are teaching in each lesson.
See, Tea Partiers? That's how you tackle Common Core. Forget the logo; attack the logos. 17 comments