Monday, May 5, 2014

Defending the Core in OK

Sherry Labyer is superintendent of Duncan Public Schools out in Oklahoma. She has occasionally taken issue with Reformsters in her state, particularly over the use of letter grades for schools. But she loves her some Common Core, and as Oklahoma has wrangled over the future of CCSS (several bills have been floated to repeal, leash, hamstring and otherwise interfere with the Core), Ms. Labyer penned an op-ed (full image at the bottom of the page).

Her piece is just one more example of the kind of thinking that leads folks to support the Core. Let's take a look.

She opens with the historical perspective, highlighting years of preparation, training and investment in launching OK into the CCSS era. Like many CCSS supporters, she has her favorite parts: "Critical thinking and problem solving is one of the major shifts in Common Core." Oklahoma's old PASS standards were, in her words, like "asking our students to memorize Jeopardy facts," which is an evocative image except that I don't think people win on Jeopardy by memorizing every possible fact that might come up. In fact, Jeopardy answers often require a little sideways twist of cross-filing information with pattern recognition and wit. I think Jeopardy questions are closer to what CCSS fans imagine is their perfect goal.

"We must teach them how to think and help them to become innovators instead of just doers." Instead of just doers? That is a new one for me. Exactly why is being a "doer" a bad thing? Do we not like people who "get things done"? Is there not a special place in the American heart for people who "get things done" with creativity and ingenuity?

Labyer would like to clear up some confusion about the standards. See, local districts still have control; the standards only tell them what exactly what skills the students need to acquire.  The Labyer tries her hand at the curriculum/standards distinction, and let me make confession here-- there was a time when I saw these as very separate items as well, but the more CCSS supporters explain the difference, the less certain I am of the distinction between the two.

Labyer fails hard. "A standard is a statement that describes what a student should be able to do at a certain point in his/her educational career. Curriculum is the scope and sequence of skills that are to be learned in a particular subject at a particular grade level." So let's say that the task at hand is to walk from the corner of 9th and Liberty Streets to the corner of 12th and Liberty at noon. Standards would look like this: At 12:01, you should be walking across 9th Street. At 12:06, you should be standing at the corner of 10th and Liberty. At 12:11 you should be standing at the corner of 11th and Liberty. At 12:16, you should be standing at the corner of 12th and Liberty. But curriculum would be the scope and sequence of how you would meet all those standards, which would-- I don't know. Have different verbs? I swear, reading about Common Core is just making me stupider on this particular subject.

Labyer moves on to the old baloney about fewer standards that are more complex and deep. She notes that we no longer live in a "fill in the blank" world and not for the first time I wonder if I teach in some sort of pedagogical paradise because who the heck teaches like it's a fill-in-the-blank world except of course everybody trying to get their students ready for The Big Standardized Test (which few of us think of as real teaching so, my point).

Nor can I, for the life of me, find the deep complex critical thinking part of the standards. If you see Labyer, please ask her for me to give an example of specific standard and explain how that standard is either deep or related to critical thinking.

The bottom line is: the standards are good, they are complex, we already have them, resources have been spent preparing for them, current assignments are aligned to them, and Oklahoma educators have been involved in their development.

This is a list of unsupported assertions and our big up and coming CCSS Talking Point (replacing the previous "Let's Not Lose Momentum" point) which is "Hey, we've already spent a bunch of money on this!" You can also think of this as the "Throw good money after bad" or "Waist deep in the Big Muddy." When you're doing a dumb thing, doing it harder is a lousy solution. And of course, Oklahoma teachers did not help develop so much as a comma of the Common Core.

She offers a parting nod to college and career readiness, because that's the whole purpose of education-- vocational training and nothing else. Tell me, Ms. Labyer, will young women whose goal is to become a housewife be allowed to drop out of school?

This is the same old tired stuff, without a shred of evidence offered to support the various assertions about Common Core.Labyer is trying to talk people out of dumping the Core in OK. I hope she is unsuccessful.

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to say thanks It is amazing how a pro-core article can inspire lack so much critical thinking while inspiring so much critical thinking.

    I still would like someone to line the PASS and Common Core standards up side by side to see if there are indeed fewer standards. It seems like there are more writing standards, but iI hae never made the direct comparison. I don't think the PASS standards are available online.....