It was just last week that I warned that I was running out of headline variations on "CAP tries to promote a stupid Common Core idea that nobody has seriously tried to sell for years." But the Center for American Progress just keeps driving that baloney truck around the block again and again.
And last Thursday, there they were again. This time it was Lisette Partelow (director of teacher policy) in the pages of US New in their feature called Knowledge Bank.
Common Core doomsayers often claim that rich, engaging, curiosity-inspiring
lessons are a thing of the past. But, as a former teacher, I'm tired of
Common Core critics claiming that the standards somehow inhibit teacher creativity. It's simply not true.
First of all, as you have already guessed, Partelow's "former teacher" status is based on her two years of Teach for America experience (2012-2014). She actually did the TFA thing well after graduating college. She got her BA in Psychology from Connecticut College in 2003, and went straight to work for American Institutes for Research, the test manufacturers who sometimes go toe-to-toe with Pearson. She spent six or seven years working as a Congressional staffer and research assistant, then TFAed her way into a DC first grade temp position before landing a policy gig with CAP. In short, she's not really a former teacher.
But back to her defense of the Core.
Although the Core is swell, its detractors are "winning the public relations battle that they themselves manufactured," because as we know, all objections to Common Core are simply PR ploys and not an expression of real objections by real humans who know what they're talking about. She'll pair that old chestnut up with "people like high standards and great schools, so ipso factoid they MUST love the Common Core, just not by name."
Contrary to popular perception, Common Core was designed to be less prescriptive than many states' previous standards.
So, popular perception is just deluded. When, for instance, the Core says that the way to write a narrative is this:
and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or
observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s)
of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth
progression of experiences or events.
That's not prescriptive? David Coleman's insistence that literature must be understood only by using what appears within the four corners of the text-- that's not prescriptive? And the Core's inherent emptiness, which Partelow presents as a strength (the Core doesn't tell you what texts to include)-- that insistence on structuring around a set of prescribed skills, which in turn implies that texts and literature have no value, but exist simply as a bucket in which to carry the important part, the required skills-- that's not prescriptive in any way?
Like the rules or regulations that provide direction to other
professions, rigorous standards provide a loose guide for teachers to
follow, while still allowing teachers ample room for creativity in how
they develop and execute their daily lessons.
You can read your script wearing a tie or wearing a skirt. You can cover the Core-aligned lessons with your hair parted in the right or on the left. The classroom teacher is free to make any number of choices-- just not any of the major ones.
Partelow trots out some other old standards of the genre, including a teacher (one who won the Fishman Prize from TNTP, TFA's sister organization) who says that "she believes Common Core allows for creativity in the classroom while
ensuring that students are supported by better, more rigorous standards
that encourage deeper levels of understanding." Which is a pretty thing to say, although I have yet to hear an explanation of how, exactly, standards encourage deep thinking-- especially Core standards which have nothing to say about deep thinking, but focus on compliance.
But Partelow goes on to follow pattern of all those essays we read a year or two ago and offers some concrete examples of great teaching ideas and lessons that any teacher worthy of the name already knew to do before the Core was even a distant twinkle in Bill Gates' eye.
Partelow does not even recognize that CCSS has lead to straightjacketed lockstep creativity-free teaching throughout the country, not even in order to blame it one somebody else. Meanwhile, CCSS and its testing program drive schools to get "aligned" materials and follow them blindly. Of course, most reformsters didn't start that game until mid-2014. CAP is stuck in 2013.
Meanwhile, I am wondering what's going on at CAP. This is the fourth article this month in which they recycle stale Common Core talking points from late 2013. Are they in fact recycling, trying to create more environmentally responsible thinky tank effluvium? Are they executing an elaborate piece of performance art and presenting themselves as living nostalgia for the recent past? Did they hire a completely new staff that is now redoing the old crew's work? Did CAP have a stroke?
Whatever the case, they need to stop. How can we take anyone seriously who pretends that a couple of year's worth of discussion and debate and debunking never happened. At the very least, CAP needs to move on to points that we don't already know simply aren't true.