Friday, February 14, 2014

"Why I Heart Common Core"

Hey. Everybody else is writing one. Why not me? Here's my teacher-cheerleading CCSS letter.

As everybody knows, US education has been descending into failure of Biblical proportions, leading to an entire generation of students who don't know enough to come in out the rain. We were facing world domination by Estonia and South Korea. Thank goodness a bunch of teachers got together, possibly teaming up with parents, to produce the Common Core State Standards which were totally not created by a bunch of guys from the major testing corporations. These life-changing and nation-rescuing standards were voluntarily adopted by 45 states who were in no way influenced by their desire to get their federal ed money and avoid the impending NCLB crash. In fact, these 45 states were so excited about voluntarily adopting CCSS, some of them did it before the standards were actually published.

Some wacko tea partiers Obama haters crankypants teachers have been raising a fuss, but a complete legit assortment of polls show that 75% of teachers support the standards, because standards just like these have been around forever. So these are just like the standards we had when we were sucking hard enough to take the chrome off a fender, but they are so totally different that we will now turn education completely around.

In my own classroom, Common Core Standards have been pedagogically transformative in a dynamically epistomological kind of way. My students are involved in deep and thoughtful activities that involve interaction, reflection, and involvement. We do projects. We have discussions. We use critical thinking. We read books, and when we do, we read carefully and deeply and discuss ideas about the book while using details from the book to back these up. We even write stuff, and sometime use computers and techy things.

These may sound like activities that teachers have been doing in classrooms since the dawn of time, but before CCSS, I made my students learn everything by rote and repetition. We used pieces of slate that we drew on with charcoal. If we used novels at all, we simply let them sit on the desk and gained insights into the contents by consulting our spirit animals. I mean, I had no idea that critical thinking even was a thing! It used to take me three months just to introduce regular old thinking. Also, grit and rigor. We are awash in grit and rigor, and I can see with my own eyes that the grit and rigor is transforming my useless young hooligans into future investment bankers. It's awesome.

CCSS has liberated me. Once I open my Pearson test book and set up the lesson that is carefully aligned to the standards for that exact day of the school year, I am free to put my own personal spin on it. I could deliver the lesson with a red shirt on, or I could wear a blue shirt. I could recite the opener with a thoughtful face or a happy face. I can part my hair on whatever side I choose. Teachers who say that the Core is restrictive are just cray cray. Because freedom is slavery.

Of course, teachers need time to adjust to these new standards of awesomeness, time to plan lessons around our new materials, and time to adjust students to having just skipped an entire grade of instruction. And maybe we could hold off on the tests until, you know, some are actually written-- though the tests are a necessary part of the learning experience. Also, seeing results from last year's single test will totally tell me what I need to emphasize with next year's students.

But even though the standards have never been tested, we can all be assured that they will make all students gritty and rigorous and college ready. Whether students want to grow up to be artists, welders, scientists, writers, actors, engineers, or stay-at-home parents, don't they all deserve to have the exact same preparation for those futures? But by giving them rigorous tests now, we can unlock all their dreams for the future. Because dreams, rigor, common sense, and effectiveness.

I am a more effective teacher now that I have a set of government and corporate documents to tell me how to do my job. Also, ignorance is strength.


  1. I love Common Core too. It is making people who normally don't watch or read the news become political activists. As a teacher I've learned things I never knew were out there too. I learned that ALEC is more than a Baldwin brother, its actually Koch Brothers which are also historical figures I don't remember seeing in history books. Students, parents, and teachers are discovering how to exercise their freedom of speech without having to depend on it being picked up by mainstream media. It is making people who have in recent years been reluctant to support unions start to realize the necessity for the protection of unfair working conditions and assessments. I love common core because it is making common people demand that public officials appointed to positions of leadership be at least somewhat competent and knowledgeable in their field. All in all Common Core has done an amazing job of teaching history, social studies, and civics. What? Common Core doesn't cover Social Studies? Weird.

    1. You had to wait for CCSS to ensure that your students "are involved in deep and thoughtful activities that involve interaction, reflection, and involvement... do projects. We have discussions. We use critical thinking. We read books, and when we do, we read carefully and deeply and discuss ideas about the book while using details from the book to back these up." Didn't you do that Before?

    2. It's sarcasm, juliannnc: Peter Greene's specialty.

  2. you make me smile…hard to come by in these dark days of Common Core

  3. Great stuff, Peter. Made me laugh (after a close, non-contextualized reading, of course)

  4. I heart your lesson on CCSS ! Thanks, teach!

  5. The BATS have left the belfries and are now in the classrooms. I seem to recall that common core was very similar to career readiness. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. This is awesome. OMG funny.

  7. I do love this writing, this tone, even while the subject makes my skin crawl. Write on!

  8. Love it! My only suggestion: substitute "white suburban moms" for "Obama haters"

  9. Another excellent, satisfying serving of curmudgeonliness.

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  11. I'm not sure why everyone's so upset about Common Core. Just look at the word "core." As in the core of an APPLE, people! A wholesome, nutritional food traditionally associated with the noble, age-old calling of teaching, and also possessing the mystical ability to keep doctors away. And the filthy lucre they make- keep those obscene amounts of money far away from teaching! Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah- core=apples=teaching=Common Core=good, right? It's totally logical. Or wait, aren't the cores actually the trash part of the apple that no one wants to eat, except for feral pigs and sewer rats? Hmm... I'm gonna have to think about this a little more... critically, of course.

    1. Made me think of this classic:
      How [poop] Happens

      In the beginning there was the Plan.
      And then came the Assumptions.
      And the Assumptions were without form.
      And the Plan was without substance.
      And darkness was on the face of the Workers.
      And they spoke among themselves, saying
      "It is a crock of [poop], and it stinks".
      And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said
      "It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof".
      And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying
      "It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none can abide by it".
      And the Managers went unto their Directors saying
      "It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength".
      And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying one to another
      "It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong".
      And the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents, saying unto them
      "It promotes growth, and it is very powerful".
      And the Vice Presidents went unto President saying unto him
      "This new Plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of this company, with powerful effects".
      And the President looked upon the Plan and saw it was good.
      And the Plan became Policy.
      This is how [poop] happens.

    2. Thanks for that! It is deservedly classic and absolutely appropriate.

  12. Sarcasm at its finest...thank you. Great way to start off our week of ELA week of testing in NYS.

  13. Very well written, Peter. There are many ways to say that education is heading in the wrong direction - and has been since NCLB began to take hold...
    Stephen Round
    RI Teacher Who Quit

  14. Correction, Teacherman. Education has been headed in the wrong direction since the advent of standardized testing.

  15. You mean you don't really [heart] the idea of corporations controlling children's learning .... "from cradle to career...."?

  16. I love this! It supplied some sorely needed chuckles.

  17. Are you all complaining about the defined info that students are expected to learn by the time they graduate from high school (what I see as the Common Core) or are you complaining about the pathetic implementation, onerous oversight and silly dipstick crap from textbook publishers that has flowed out of the plans to enforce standards. Two different problems with two different solutions. I normally only see comments about the latter problem. Often with lots of "blah, blah, blah" about since I'm not a teacher, I can't understand the objections. Please teach me.

    I'm not a teacher. I am an engineer, adjunct professor and a school board member. I have read the common core standards covering Math and Language. I have not a single objection to defining some basic foundational knowledge required of every high school graduate. I would declare that all educated citizens must know how to read/write, think logically, understand the natural world around them, and be aware of how their country works and how it got to where it is.

    My school district managed to cover these topics in four periods per day, leaving three for elective subjects.

    I'm also unclear why so many people think that defining expected learning outcomes is such a radical thing. Every engineer who has earned as BS in Mechanical Engineering from an accredited school has study fundamentals in about a dozen subjects and still had time to select roughly 15-20% of his/her curriculum from electives. And despite the fact that all ME students in the US are taught thermodynamics from one of less than a half dozen accepted textbooks, every professor manages to teach it his/her way.

    I don't understand the difference. If you can't explain it to me, you probably don't either. Please teach instead of rant

    1. I see a couple of gaps in your understanding.

      Your list of skills that an educated person must possess doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. We could say that every graduate should be able to play basketball, but does that mean actually play at a professional level, play well enough for playground ball, or be able to display skills like dribbling and shooting foul shots without necessarily playing a game on a team against opponents? How will we determine adequate mastery, and who will design the metrics.

      ME students at accredited schools are studying in programs that have been vetted and designed and approved by other mechanical engineers. They are reading thermodynamics textbooks written by recognized experts in their field. That is not the situation with Common Core, which is the equivalent of an engineering program designed by English teachers.

      You ask "What's wrong with defined learning outcomes?" and express your support for standards, and I don't think there are that many teachers who would disagree with those sentiments. But you are making the assumption that standards, of course, means standards that have been designed and tested and proven and recognized by experts in the field. But that's not what we have here. What we have are standards written by people with no real knowledge of the field using no significant research and untested. Yes, I know they say they've done all these things. They are lying.

      Imagine you are hired for a job and the point person for the client says, "We've got some ideas about how this building is supposed to be built, starting with order of construction-- we want it to look god right away, so build the shell, and then fill in the floors and then build the foundation under it last." You've got your defined expectations. They're just not very good ones. Just because someone has set some standards for you doesn't mean they don't suck.

      Trying to get to details here is much like trying to discuss thermodynamics on twitter, but here's one example of what was wrong with their process. CCSS developed standards for lower grades by backwards-scaffolding. Start with what a graduate should be able to do, then just work backwards. That may seem logical, but it works like this: I want every graduate to be able to run a ten-minute mile. If I figure that a student can run about a minute faster pace every year, then by backwards scaffolding, that means Kindergartner's should be running a mile in 23 minutes and in pre-school they should be running 25-ish and to get into a pre-K program, your two year old should be running a mile in 26 minutes. You can say, "Well, that's obviously stupid and against all common sense," but my point is that many standards in the K-3 range are exactly that stupid-- to someone who understands child development.

  18. Absolutely loved this! Thank you for the chuckles.

  19. The more I learn about CCSS it sounds like a top-down design spec. Not necessarily bad. For example I can write a spec that gives how a passenger jet shall operate. You start with range, number of passengers, top speed, ect. Many requirements will be to meet regulations but in the end it has to be useful to a buyer. Ok how do we get there? Its like Peter said. If we hired a bunch of English teachers instead of engineers to define the design, process, ect. An airplane will not get built even with the best engineers.

  20. As a parent and a researcher I do not understand why you as a teacher appreciate having the federal government involved in the education of our children. That is the very reason education has been going down the sewer for years - if they left education to educators our children would be much better off. Additionally, D.C.'s need to compare our educational grades with those around the world is sad given these know it all politicians are not even aware that China, one of the countries we are supposedly held up to, is ending all testing and they have shown it is ineffective. Bravo to the teachers who are on the march against the CCSS. This is all a path to the governmental total control of education.