Friday, November 8, 2013

CCSS: Taking a Deep Breath

Those of us who spend a lot of time writing and venting and raging and grumbling about the CCSS need to occasionally step back, take a breath, and remember one hugely important thing--

What the CCSS says doesn't really matter.

One of the many things that hasn't changed a bit in the transition from Bush's NCLB to Obama's RttT is one of the worst things-- the absolute reliance on testing as the measure of education, schools, teachers, bus drivers, school lunches and, presumably, the people who paint the parking spaces in the school parking lot. It's testing all the way. High stakes test that collect very little real data, filtered through really shiny software that makes all those beautiful, beautiful data digits glow and sparkle.

Testing is king, and testing will, as always, focus on the things that it can measure, or at least pretend to measure. And that means that big chunks of CCSS will never, ever be tested.

The kind of skills required to read and entire novel, synthesizing the ways in which the author uses character development and other literary techniques to create thematic unity over the course of an entire work? Forget that. We'll still read brief excerpts and bubble in some quick one-answer questions.

The PA version of the core standards includes some lovely language about collaboration. I find the idea of a standardized test that involves collaboration kind of entertaining, but that's never going to happen.

Eventually, states will produce some nice jargon (we used to like "assessment anchors" in PA) that will really mean "the only part of the standards that will be on the test." And then we will all grab our carefully-produced-by-Pearson instructional materials and hone in on those parts of the CCSS with lazer-like test-prep precision.

The rest of the CCSS, even the parts that prompted so much angst and chest-thumping and impassioned argument-- they will be no more important than your appendix, and like your school's arts program, they will fall by the wayside, ignored because they fail the most important test question in the world of corporate education reform-- Is it on the test?

Bottom line? There are parts of the core that just aren't ever going to matter. We can save our energy for other things, like fighting the culture of big tests and little data.

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