Thursday, May 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, CCSS

It seems like just yesterday that the Common Core shambled out of its cave, wearing a tissue-paper cape emblazoned with "State Led" and flexing its big rigorous baby muscles.

But it has been four years, give or take a bit (because gauging its birthday is hard, depending on which backroom deal, which protean form, which lunch meeting between Achieve and its buddies, or which Memorandum of Noneofthepublicsbusiness you want to count from). But let's count from a point in time that really matters-- the start of the Race to the Top grants.

Governor Rick "The Teacher Crusher" Scott recently granted what I can only imagine was a walk-and-talk interview to Bill Korach at The Report Card, and he was pretty clear and direct there: as far as he's concerned, CCSS is done in Florida.

Race to the Top was a four year grant. That grant has expired, it’s done. We are no longer under obligation to the Federal Government. So we are pushing back against any Federal intrusion into our public schools.

You see, poor baby CCSS was such an ugly, unlikeable child that its parents had to pay people to be its friend. At any rate, they had to arrange for somebody to pay others to befriend the poor little Core. Private sources, like the Ma and Pa Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Giant Pile O' Money Trust, paid for private sector friends like fancy thinky tanks and shiny astro-turf groups and even some nice teacher union friends. Meanwhile, the US government did its best to buy Baby Core friends in state governments, either through bribery (Race to the Top) or extortion (avoid being out-of-compliance with No Child Left Behind waivers).

"The states are making friends with Baby Core because they like it," said Arne Duncan, trying to paper over the truth-- that CCSS adoption was voluntary in the same way that mortgage payments are voluntary.

And now the money to buy friends for Baby Core is running out.

Baby Core's parents probably hoped that it would be out of its ugly phase by now, that the undesirable duckling would become a much-beloved swan At the very least they were praying that Baby Core would quickly grow up to be bureaucratic kudzu, so firmly rooted that we'd all just try to convince ourselves it's kind of pretty and settle for trimming it instead of rooting it out.

Alas, after four-ish years, Baby Core is still ugly as sin, and has not a single success to its sad name. People touting the Core's awesomeness come in three groups:
            1) Politicians who have stapled their fortunes to it
            2) People who are making money from it
            3) Silly teachers who say ridiculous things like, "Before Common Core, we didn't know how to use books in my classroom."

There is no wave of leaping test scores, no blossoming of awesome charter chains, no new generation of core-engendered geniuses. The Core hasn't accomplished a damned thing; it has simply revealed itself to be a damned thing. The notion that Common Core would revolutionize and revive American education belongs on the shelf right next to "We will be greeted as liberators."

Baby Core has had four years to make friends on its own. It has failed. And now the money to pay for its faux friends is running out. And the private fund sources can't keep buying more friends forever, particularly if continued defections keep chipping away at the beautiful vision of an entire nation lined up share the CCSS love.

Oh, Scott will still keep his state battling North Carolina for "Most Education-Hostile State in the Union," with tenure's death, merit pay, and high stakes testing. But his defection from the Core party is a reminder that the kinds of friends you have to buy are friends that you'll never be able to count on-- but they're the only kinds of friends the Core has.

Happy birthday, CCSS. I wouldn't buy a very big cake.

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