Thursday, November 6, 2014

TN Core Apologist

Casie Jones is concerned, maybe even upset. Over at Bluff City Education, she would like to explain why Tennessee cannot, should not, abandon the Common Core now.

I'm a student of the Teachers Says We Must Support The Core narrative in its many not-very-varied forms, and Jones follows most of the standard bullet points., starting with her title: "Sabotaging Common Core Sabotages Teachers, Students." "Sabotaging" is a great word choice, because it assumes that the Core is a Great Thing that is Actually Working.

Tennessee schools were sucking hard enough to hoover the chrome off a trailer hitch. Furthermore, they were coping with No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress demands with the nationally-favored technique of "gaming the numbers," also known as "cheating."

So thank goodness the Core came along to fix all of that. Which of course takes us to the classic Teacher Core Booster line-- previously I couldn't do my job, but once I adopted the Core, my classroom came alive, my students prospered and grew wings, and well, here you go. You may say it's mean for me to pick on Jones for previously being incompetent, that it is a personal and unwarranted attack. But the implication of these personal reformation stories is, "Hey, you don't know how to do your job, either, so you need the Core." Which is also a personal and unwarranted attack on every other teacher in the country.

What I find bizarre about these Giant Core Revelation stories is that they are unnecessary for a sales job. I'm always looking for ways to grow and develop, and I'll look at anything that might help. But don't tell me, "You suck. You need to change everything" and don't tell me, "You should really use this new technique called Reading Books."

There are two interesting moments in Jones's testimonial. One is her protest against the people waging the "war against Common Core."

After testifying several times before Tennessee legislators, I realized that those who are making these decisions for “our students” are not people who have taught in a classroom.  They are not people who spend time in schools and they have never worked with the standards themselves.  They are politicians, business leaders, and social representatives who have been easily swayed by the outcry against the standard... 

Where, I wonder, does she think the Core and the impetus for enshrining it in the nation's schools came from? Has she met David "I'm an educational amateur and proud of it" Coleman? Or the US Chamber of Commerce? Or Arne Duncan?  Hell, she is in Tennessee, where the entire ed department is run by a TFA grad who has spent less time in a classroom than a devoted PTA room mother!! The people who made the decision that "our students" need the Core in the first place were politicians, business leaders, and a coalition of rich and powerful amateurs. I understand her frustration that political considerations are now starting to force the Core out-- but it was political considerations that forced the Core in in the first place! Live by the sword, and all that.

The other moment comes in her Tale of How Common Core Saved Tennessee.

Modifications to the math and English/language arts standards made their way into the classroom, followed by the talk of a new rigorous assessment that would finally push us to the next level.

Correct. At its heart, the Common Core is test driven. Jones is seriously arguing that standardized testing should be used to drive Tennessee's curriculum, that the way to get to a high quality education is by giving harder standardized tests. Which is just one more reason why people like me, people who are teachers and do work in a classroom are arguing against Common Core and the assorted crappy reform ideas stapled to it.

You don't write strong, powerful, useful curricula with tests. You don't drive-- or measure-- excellence with a bubble sheet (and if you're clicking answers on a screen, it's still a bubble test).  A new rigorous test will not take you to the next level of anything except the next level of standardized testing.

After a stirring final graf exhorting other teachers to speak up of their Core love and listing some specific Core benefits that are all Things Good Teachers Already Know To Do, Jones winds up with this sentence-

We owe it to our students to demonstrate commitment to a plan that took guts to implement and will bring glory if we do not give up!

Well, it didn't take guts implement it. It took money and political connections and some back room power brokering, and there is no glory to be found in pursuing this unproven, failing slab of education malpractice.


  1. You didn't even mention that as TN teachers, we've also had to suffer with VAM for more than a decade.

  2. Thanks Peter. I love how the Teacher who loves the Core ignores the entire group of teachers that are NOT in support of the Core- like TNBATs.

  3. I'm a Tennessee teacher and I see Common Core for what it is. Standards for English/Language Arts are poorly worded and in themselves grammatically incorrect. Standards are linked to testing. The tests are problematic and students are over-tested. Jones must be sucking up to someone-- for pay or the promise of advancement. What a lackey!

  4. Susan, she was paid $3,000 dollars the year before last to write articles in support of "education reform" ("TeachPLUS Policy Fellow). So that answers your question.