Common Core State Standards: Ten colossal errors?

How can I possibly digest the gigantic amount of material that has been written about the controversial Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? Like it or not, these standards are about to have a big impact on my professional life, so I had better figure out what’s going on. Here’s an initial take (only an initial one):

First of all, most of the controversy involves three very different issues that unfortunately tend to get intertwingled. One issue includes how the standards were created, what role the federal government played, whether classroom teachers were involved, and how for-profit companies are making money from them. This issue is independent from the second one, which includes the quality and scope of the CCSS, regardless of how they were created. And a third issue is the how big a role standardized nation-wide testing should play in teacher evaluations. Since all three issues were dumped on us at once, and since they all involve the CCSS, it’s no wonder that they would get confused and mixed together.

So let’s start with the article in Education Week to which the title of this post alludes. Author Anthony Cody identifies what he considers to be “ten colossal errors” made by the Common Core project. You should definitely read the lengthy article yourself, as I have no room here to give anything more than a brief summary quoted directly from Cody’s list of ten errors:

  1. The process by which the Common Core standards were developed and adopted was undemocratic.
  2. The Common Core State Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.
  3. The Common Core is inspired by a vision of market-driven innovation enabled by standardization of curriculum, tests, and ultimately, our children themselves.
  4. The Common Core creates a rigid set of performance expectations for every grade level, and results in tightly controlled instructional timelines and curriculum.
  5. The Common Core was designed to be implemented through an expanding regime of high-stakes tests, which will consume an unhealthy amount of time and money.
  6. Proficiency rates on the new Common Core tests have been dramatically lower—by design.
  7. Common Core relies on a narrow conception of the purpose of K-12 education as “career and college readiness.”
  8. The Common Core is associated with an attempt to collect more student and teacher data than ever before.
  9. The Common Core is not based on any external evidence, has no research to support it, has never been tested, and worst of all, has no mechanism for correction.
  10. Error #10: The biggest problem of American education and American society is the growing number of children living in poverty.

Do I agree that all ten of these really do characterize the CCSS? Yes, I do.

Do I agree that all ten of these really are harmful, and thus deserve the label “colossal errors”? Yes, I do.

I just wish that this list didn’t commingle three different kinds of criticism. And I’m certainly not saying that everything in the CCSS is bad. In particular, large chunks of them may well be better than existing standards in many states — I wouldn’t know — though I don’t see that in Massachusetts, at least in secondary math. I also know that some of the criticism of the Common Core has been misguided, especially from the loud voices of the Tea Party.

I have many pages more to write, but I’m already into “tl;dr” territory, so I’ll save the rest for other posts on other days.

Categories: Teaching & Learning