The Common Core Isn’t So Common

I’ve been a little absent lately from my blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with the lastest common core news.  Check out some of my recent reads:

States wanting to leave the common core:  

In Indiana, legislators recently voted down a bill that would have removed the state from adopting common core standards.  The bill argued that common core standards are a “step down” from what Indiana is already doing under its current standards, a sentiment echoed by Sandra Stosky, who helped write the current standards:

‘They are not the best standards out there,’ she said. ‘They are not as good as what Indiana had.’

I have heard echoes of this idea elsewhere as well.  In a common core group, I recently saw a teacher post the following:

I don’t really see much of a difference between individual state standards and the common core ones, but I’m glad it will be nationwide.

The common core isn’t so common, though:

What we have, then, are educators who may not see the difference between the education paradigm of yesterday and the shifting paradigms of the common core.  The words in the standards may seem similar to the words of the old standards, but the pedagogy is very different.  Kathleen Porter-Magee further describes the difference between where states think their standards are already similar and how these similarities are actually insignificant and “overly simplistic” in addressing the expectations of the common core:

For starters, these crosswalk comparisons too often lose the forest for the trees, focusing on narrow and sometimes insignificant differences between state and Common Core standards, rather than working to identify major differences in prioritization and focus. As one example, a Crosswalk done by the Oregon State Department of Education compared the following second grade standards:

Common Core Oregon Standard
Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text. EL.02.LI.05 Make and confirm predictions about what will happen next.EL.02.LI.06 Describe cause-and-effect of specific events.EL.02.LI.06 Describe cause-and-effect of specific events.EL.02.SL.07 Ask for clarification and explanation of stories and ideas.

The summary analysis found that

  • Oregon’s call for predictions and cause/effect only.
  • CCSS calls for students to focus on key details.

Nowhere in this overly simplistic analysis does the state even mention the focus in the CCSS on engaging in close reading of grade appropriate texts. And yet, the importance of ensuring that allstudents engage in reading sufficiently rigorous texts is at the heart of the Common Core standards—and represents a significant shift for classrooms across the country.

While I am not always in agreement with Kathleen, I think her analysis is spot on in this case.  The common core is an intricate web of new pedagogy, and when it is simplified into simple semantics, the value of the inherent new thinking within the standards is lost completely.

Shifting paradigms of teaching:

Yesterday, Cathleen Gewertz, with Education Week, described a meeting in Florida of Chief Academic Officers who met to discuss how to provide professional development for common core implementation that really addressed these pedagogical shifts.  Together, they engaged in deep thinking about what it means to read critically and how the common core emphasis on this kind of reading will change the way we teach reading in our classrooms:

Instead of quickly feeding students the answers to the questions they will inevitably have, teachers are going to have to learn a whole new way of working: to “tolerate silences” and take a “let’s-find-out” approach, channeling students back to the text for answers, Pook said. This will raise “confidence and stamina issues” for teachers, he said. “We’ll have to hold teachers back and push them back to the text,” he said.

One district official captured a key shift in the kinds of questions teachers will have to learn how to ask. He pointed to one of the questions, which asked, “What words did Freedman use to characterize what happened next?” He noted that many of his teachers would say they already do this.

“They’ll say, ‘Yeah, I always ask what happened next,’ ” he said. “But that’s not the question. The question was, ‘What words did Freedman use?’ “

Herein lies our shifting paradigm, one that goes unnoticed when we find ourselves subscribing to the idea that the common core is similar to what we already do.

Making sure our PD fits:

When we’re thinking about PD and what we need to be doing to implement common core standards, it is essential that we understand our end goal, which is not to continue doing the same thing we have always done (what’s that cliche about insanity and expecting different results?); our end goal is to change the way we teach, to raise 21st century learners, to shift our mindsets about education away from rows of students sitting silently and actively zoning out while teachers attempt to pour knowledge into them.  PD that reinforces the similarities of the common core fails to recognize the essential differences of the common core.  This is an idea reinforced by Kathleen Porter-Magee:

This is our chance not just to raise the expectations for all students, but also to rethink the way to approach state standards implementation. Let’s seize the opportunity and make sure we’re getting it right.

Related Articles:

2/1:  Indiana wasn’t swayed by the vote in favor of the common core standards; reps still managed to pass a bill requiring cursive writing to remain in the standards.

2/17:  The debate on shifting paradigms in reading continues.

2/27:  Add South Carolina to the states facing CCSS opposition:  Though voted down by Senate subcommittee, bill still goes to hearing.

3/1:  Utah joins in the hooplah


2 thoughts on “The Common Core Isn’t So Common

  1. Pingback: “Embracing the Common Core”–Columbus Conference « Turn On Your Brain

  2. Pingback: CCSS Tip Sheets from ODE « Turn On Your Brain

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