Friday, May 2, 2014

Is This CCSS Criticism Fair?

The supporters of Common Core have eaten so much cheese with their whine that we may have to call a whaaaambulance.

Their complaints have been percolating for a while, but the heat of the Louis C.K. flame-up has brought their big bowl of treacly tears to a roiling boil. The criticisms are not fair. Those stupid examples of bad assignments have nothing to do with the Core, and the terrible tests are separate from the Core, and an idiot misprint could happen to anybody no matter what federally-coerced education program they were trying to implement.

Do the Core supporters have a point?

Yes. Yes, they do.

All along, people have been holding up bad assignments and worksheets and lessons as examples of Common Core that could have come from anywhere. When supporters say that CCSS do not mandate particular stupid instructional strategies, they are correct. Reformsters who decry the linkage of standards and The Test are not technically wrong. And pinning a bad print job on the Core, as if no printers error could have occurred in a land of local control, is kind of silly. In short, trying to act as if no teacher or school district ever did anything stupid in the days before Common Core is a ridiculous argument.


However. The Core supporters asked for this.

First. First, the creators of the CCSS wrote the damn things and then just walked away. They promised publishers and ed corporations a massive payday for anyone who would slap "CCSS Ready" on teaching materials, and then they walked away. And when those corporations started cranking out all manner of sloppy crap and calling it CCSS material, there was nobody minding the store. Instead of standing over their creation and saying, "Woah woah WOAH! Let's just all take it slow. You fellas line up and let us make sure you're getting this right," Coleman and the rest had clocked out and headed off to their own big payday, pausing just long enough to toss a "Have fun, boys" back over their shoulders.

Second, because the CCSS Reformsters made sure they had control of the playing field since day one, they made the rules. These are the rules they made:

* Making up shit to sway the public is okay (e.g. "You can trust the Core Standards because they were written by professional teachers")

* Using people who control large audiences but have no actual expertise in education is fine. If they have a large audience, that's all the right they need to speak on subjects in which they have no professional expertise. Bill Gates and US Chamber of Commerce, meet Louis C. K.

* Blur the line between standards, curriculum and lessons as it suits you. CCSS supporters have referred to the Common Core Curriculum, touted Common Core Lessons, and talked incessantly about how the Core will guarantee that students in Alaska, Tennessee and Maine will all learn the same thing (a promise that sounds like it's about lessons and curriculum to most anybody). How did the public get the idea that the Core and all these lessons are different parts of the same big elephant? The people busy trying to cash in on CCSS told them so.

* Link the CCSS to the Big Tests. The federal gummint made testing and CCSS part of the same get-out-of-NCLB-jail-free card. Advocates for the Core told states that they HAD to have high stakes testing in place for the Core to do any good.

* Link the standards to teaching. Keep claiming that the standards will fix all the crappy teachers, that teachers will be held accountable for their work by the use of the Common Core. Publish glowing articles about how the Core has made Mrs. McUberteacher do the best teaching of her life because the core has transformed her classroom.

* Inflate the importance of piddly shit when it suits you. Throw around obscure baloney like PISA scores and keep telling the public that it's hugely importance. Blow up the statistical importance of classroom teachers to students success. Basically, establish the rule that any small detail that helps prove your point can be magnified a thousandfold.

* Directly connecting what the Core says and what students do. We've been told repeatedly-- the Common Core Standards mean that students will do more rigorous work. It will be hard. they might cry. But this Common Core work will be good for them. This rhetoric, repeated repeatedly, has established a clear and direct link between the standards in the Core and the worksheets on Johnny's desk.

* Teachers must teach to the test. You didn't mean to make this a rule, but you couldn't help yourselves. But how else will any sentient being interpret, "Your students will do well on this test, or we will flunk them and fire your ass." Nobody-- NOBODY-- thinks the next line in that poem is, "So don't teach to the test."

* Mock opponents rather than engage them. As in, characterizing all CCSS opponents as tin hat crazypants tea partiers or whiny moms or lying teachers.

For years, CCSS supporters established that these would be the rules by which we conducted all discourse about the standards and their attendant complex of core-created crap. And now, those same rules of discourse are being used against them. Aspects of education that they repeatedly linked to Common Core? They would like those unlinked now, please. Stop calling us names and just talk to us! And let's start sticking to facts. Sorry, but that's not following the rules that have been in place for the past several years.

Are these rules fair? No, of course not. We've been saying so for years now. But you supporters always replied, "Tough shit. We're winning, so tough shit."  Only as the tide has turned against you have you started saying, "Hey, let's talk about the quality of discourse in this conversation."

Too late, boys. I actually agree with you-- we do need a better quality of conversation to rescue public education from the Reformy Status Quo you've saddled us with. There are so many reasons of substance, importance educational reasons that CCSS etc should be scrapped beyond the sometimes-trivial odds and ends currently being torn apart. But you never created any way for that discussion to be had, no method for revision or review ever, and anyway, there aren't that many reasonable folks like me around, and for the time being, we're not going to carry the day.

Karma's a bitch, isn't it.