Over at EdWeek, the Teaching Ahead roundtable is having a little debate about the Core's burgeoning image problem. I've made my own entry in the argument (feel free to check it out and like it as a way to register your CCSS love).
Tucked in among the various points of view, you'll find this piece by Jessica Keigan. "Abandoning the Common Core Would Be a Disservice to Students" belongs to that special category of Teacher Core Evangelism that I never cease to find weirdly fascinating.
Keigan, who is also a teacher leader with the Center for Teacher Quality, comes from the "How CCSS Changed My Classroom Life" school of Core boosting.
I used to have to teach novel-based units. Now, I have the freedom to
choose what literature and non-fiction I want to use to teach students
the skills that they will need to approach any complex texts that they
will come across.
I'm not really sure that's a plus. Removing novels from the classroom is certainly an important part of test prep under the current version of Core-based reform and high stakes test heaven, but I haven't seen a thing to suggest that it's actually a good idea.
I used to have to ask my students to write papers that only required
them to use basic thinking skills. Now I get to ask them to write
arguments that utilize textual support to back up their claims and
I used to have to teach a laundry list of terms and ideas, but never
had to ask my students to utilize their knowledge in a practical way.
Now, I show them to how to tackle vocabulary in a variety of contexts
and help them to apply their knowledge to a variety of contexts.
I never know what to make of these kind of praises for the Core. Does Keigan mean to say that she previously did not know how to do these things, or that she never bothered, or that her administration somehow forbid it? Before she's done in her essay and in the comments, she gives CCSS credit for skills mastery, metacognition, critical thinking, and skill. What exactly was keeping her from teaching these things before?
There's a bit more elaboration in the comments, where she responds to my usual "What couldn't you do before? What would you have to stop if CCSS went away? questions.
...my teaching prior to the implementation of Common Core wasn't that
different. However, it was hindered by a set of standards ill equipped
to inspire the professional dialogue, vertically aligned curriculum
design and personal growth that I have experienced with the
implementation of Common Core.
Okay. So her teaching hasn't been changed by the Core? The vertical alignment comes up again in her response, and I'm starting to wonder if there isn't another factor driving some of the Common Core love-- a factor of "We can use the Core as leverage for moving the other slackers in my department." In particular, I note her response to the second question which is "what I fear would be lost if Common Core was gone tomorrow is the trajectory of progress that I've seen with my students."
Is she saying that Common Core standards are useful because they put pressure on administration to fix problems in the district? In which case, do we really need or want national standards to fix local problems?
Keigan seems to have an odd idea of where Core opposition is coming from. She notes at the beginning that the conversation has been politicized (I can explain that-- the CCSS were created, promoted and adopted by political means) and notes that, "Strangely, I've yet to hear teachers called to offer their perspective." She observes that teacher are too busy "to philosophize about reform initiatives." (I would like to introduce her to some teachers).
Then, as she finishes, she says , "I am sad that so many people-- people who haven't been in a classroom since they were students-- are trying to shut down this kind of learning." Well, those are the kind of people who created this reformy baloney in the first place, but as far as opposition goes, I think she's missed a huge piece of the picture. There may be a conversation to be had here, but she'll need to better understand to whom and about what she is speaking.
I am sure there are Core supporters out there with whom a reasonable conversation can be had, but it's very difficult as long as they insist on imbuing the Core with magical properties and giving CCSS credit for everything any decent teacher ever did in a classroom.