Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CCSS: Runaway Train

One of the oddest things about the Common Core is that here you have this giant movement, this massive shadow regulation of one of the nation's largest sectors, the entire institution of public education, and yet nobody is in charge.

Think about that. You've got this set of rules that shape the lives of millions of Americans, and nobody is actually in charge.

Core boosters might say, "Well, the state's in charge," but of course that's just not true. The states were required to adopt the Core as it was handed to them, with only minor additions and no changes, and the states have no real authority to change anything in the Core. At least, that's the supposition-- since there's nobody in charge, there is no place for states to turn to ask for that authority to change the Core.

Conservative Core foes would say that the feds are in charge of the Core, but that's not quite right. Arne Duncan has anointed himself the enforcer of standards compliance, but that's a negative role. He will tell you if your state is being too non-compliant with the Core. He'll tell you what not to do, once you try to do it, and he may punish you for it. But he won't tell you what to do with the Core exactly because A) that would be illegal-ish and B) he doesn't really know anything about how to institute effective education programs.

States have been slowly inching out of the Common Core haunted house, like burglars who think maybe the guard dogs are gone now but they're not quite sure, and so mostly they have just decided to sit on the porch and pretend that they've really gotten out of the place.

The copyright holders have been absolutely silent on the requirement not to change parts of the Core and even more silent than that on the subject of how to use it and what's okay to do with it.

The creators have long since walked away from it, moving on to more profitable ventures. And the politicians that once championed it now dare not speak its name. It's senior night at the football game and nobody will step forward to say, "That's my kid!!"

And you might argue that Pearson et al are de facto in charge of Common Core because they make the materials and tests that give it actual form in the classroom. But if you called up Pearson and asked permission to change a standard, they would laugh at you, and if you asked for help implementing a standard, they would just try to sell you something.

Put another way-- if the Common Core were to collapse and everyone in the country came to see it as a disaster and a Huge Mistake, exactly whose head would roll? Who would be held responsible?

It's kind of amazing. Name one sweeping, nation-wide, institution transforming program that has ever been instituted in this country with nobody in charge of it. Common Core is a gigantic runaway train-- maybe not traveling very fast or true, but with a completely empty cab up front.No in charge. No one's responsible. Or, to use the language of the ed revolution, nobody is accountable for Common Core.


  1. I'm waiting for someone to tell me that the recommendations I've made for interpreting and implementing some selected standards from the CC math standards are wrong. No one has. Does that mean if a school does things the way I've recommended, they won't be punished? (See for links to the articles where I make the recommendations.)