Thursday, October 9, 2014

Iowa Teacher of Year Offers Dopey Common Core Quote

“If you go to any college basketball game anywhere in the nation, the court is going to be the same width, the same length and the hoop is going to be same height – and that’s all the Iowa Core outlines for us."

2014 Iowa State Teacher of the Year Jane Schmidt in an interview in the Daily Nonpariel (Stewart). (And picked up by me from the US Dept of Ed "Teachers Edition" newsletter.)

Let's just count the ways in which this metaphor fails.

If I go to any college basketball game, I am stuck watching basketball. I cannot watch football or curling or gymnastics or a performance of a Beethoven Symphony or an art exhibit. But basketball isn't the only game in town. Does Schmidt think only basketball should be standardized, or does she think every public sports and performance venue in the nation should be built to the standardized measurements of a basketball court?

If I go to any college basketball game, I will see a group of carefully screened and selected players. I will not see people who are lousy at basketball. That standardized court does not fit all possible players-- the players are screened to find the small, select group of people who can play well on that court.

Schmidt also needs to declare whether we're watching men or women's ball, because the standards actually are not the same. And if we traced the feeder programs for that team, we would not eventually trace our way back to five year olds playing basketball on that college-ball-standardized court. Even if we ignore that one sport does not fit all athletes, surely we can't ignore that one size court does not fit every person of every age to play that sport.

If I go to any college basketball game, I will see a standardized court built to measurements that are the carefully considered judgment of people who knew and worked in the game for years and years, testing and considering the best dimensions based on expert knowledge. I am not looking at dimensions selected by a bunch of rich amateurs who walked in one day and said, "We've decided what size court you guys should play on."

I went back to the original article to see if it provided a better context for this quote. All I found was this:

We all across Iowa are playing on the same court with the same dimensions, but it’s how you put the team out there and how you coach it that is the local control.

It didn't help. Look-- sports metaphors make terrible ways to describe public education. Sports have winners and losers and people who are cut from the team and people whose talents are in other sports entirely, or even (gasp) no sports at all. 

I am sure that you don't get to be Iowa State Teacher of the Year by being bad at your job or a terrible person. Elsewhere in the article, Schmidt notes that she feels the Common Core and Iowa State Standards (which are as different as night and later that same night) are just misunderstood. If she wants them to be better or more favorably understood, she's going to need a better metaphor.

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