An uncommon defense of Common Core: Local Control of Curriculum

IMG_3143I support CCSS for three key reasons. First, I believe national standards are a prudent measure in an increasingly mobile society. Second, I believe that such standards should put local districts and teachers in control of curriculum decisions. Third, I believe that the main problem in education is a lack of parental engagement, understanding, and effective support. If opponents are successful in stopping CCSS, the three issues are still in play. I often ask my proverbial question: You get rid of CCSS, then what do you do? In this post I will be addressing how CCSS puts teachers in control of curriculum choices.

Education is locally controlled
CCSS is not a Federal curriculum being forced on educators. Reports against Common Core are often poor curriculum choices. While sitting on a schools Quality Assurance Review, the conversation on certain curriculums delighted me. The challenge they were working through was having curriculum options while having a consistent vocabulary & ‘language.’ The teachers understood they were different in their gifting, that various classes may learn differently, and they need to have consistent communication with each other and parents. This situation demonstrates this:

  1. CCSS is standards not curriculum. There were multiple curriculum options that support CCSS. Some curriculums were rejected, others were accepted. They investigated the curriculum choices based on data and performance. Much of this done over and above the teachers classroom work.
  2. CCSS did not Federally mandate how the teachers were to work. Through collaboration, understanding who they are as teachers, understanding their students via data, the teachers of my local school district made curriculum decisions that were best for the students. The curriculum choices were local, made by the school district in conjunction with teachers.
  3. As a parent, the district informed me of and sought input in the process. In this case through being on the Quality Assurance Review process. This review is part of a broader process to help the school district maintain system(district) wide accreditation via a third party. (They could just go through the state for accreditation, but the district chose a harder standard to achieve.)

Common Core arguments are red herrings
The biggest thrust I see against CCSS is Federal overreach. The issue of Federal and even state government intrusion is a vital one and one that educators often share. For example, Federal overreach in the school lunch program left a mess. There is concern that the same thing can happen with CCSS. The arguments against CCSS are a distraction from real issues related to but not a result of CCSS. We must deal with real issues and not be distracted by CCSS. Why?

News Flash: Congress tells Tiger Woods how to play Golf!
Education is becoming a field where people who are not trained in education are telling trained advanced degree educators how to do their job. Imagine congress or state legislators passing laws to instruct Tiger Woods how he should play golf? (His game lately needs some help!) We would think that is crazy: 1) They’re not PGA professionals 2) It’s not their role. 3) Just because you play gold doesn’t mean you know how to coach or play professionally. This is exactly what we as a society do with educators. Arguments against CCSS are a distraction from legitimate issues with education.

Data Mining
Another concern raised with CCSS is data mining. Again, this is a distraction. Everyone of my teachers data mined. It’s called a report card. As a society we want our schools to perform well, but how is that done without data? As a country we want our schools to be competitive with other countries. That requires data. I am at a lost on how to educate without collecting data while also determining performance and competitiveness. For example, the big issue with GM is a problem in how data was mined or not mined regarding an ignition switch. Not all data collection is inherently evil. We don’t seem to mind data mining of sports performance…

Guide posts
CCSS and data collection give local school districts guide posts on curriculum choices. CCSS is a collaborative effort to establish consistency between schools. CCSS at the same time allows the art of teaching to thrive and local control of curriculum choices to exist. Though I am fully in support of intuitive choices, collecting and wisely using data is essential to solid education. Analytical approaches to things are not in opposition to intuition. The fight against CCSS and data goes against helpful guideposts. It comes across to educators as “we want you to do your job but not have the needed guide posts to do it.” This sentiment is bad in parenting, leading and educating.

Education’s mission
Educator’s mission is to reach in retrospect the goal posts constantly change before them by the government. Being a part of my school districts review process, I learned of the infamous writing goal problem. As the state had set a standard that triggered the district’s response and everything was in place, the state moved the goal posts voiding the work. This left educators with a crazy time frame to deal with the new goal post. This was not a unique experience to educators. Being professionals, they got the job done. As a parent, I was and am very frustrated, but not at the teachers. We are making educators task impossible.

Many, not all, of my educators friends are for CCSS because it is helpful. There is work that needs to be done to improve upon CCSS and to communicate what CCSS is, especially in math. But the issue of Federal overreach (no child, race to the top, etc), States moving the goal posts (like previous example) and inconsistency between school districts existed long before Common Core. CCSS helps with consistency, but the issue of government overreach is solved by parents. Defeating CCSS doesn’t solve the real issues, and leaves unresolved an important issue.

The bottom line: Educators real mission is…
Teachers want to teach. Let us stop focussing on clearly bad examples of teachers or curriculum choices. Focus on the majority of teachers who want to help our kids think and achieve their dreams. The issues of standardized testing and government overreach are real, but CCSS is not the problem. Rather than chase after the red herring we made CCSS, listen to trained professionals who are also our neighbors.

CCSS are standards and not curriculum. Local school districts and teachers are fully in charge of curriculum decisions and CCSS keeps the art of teaching alive in the classroom. The viewpoint that CCSS is a Federal take over of education does not match the reality of how education works. Yes, Federal and even State overreach is an issue and a concern that educators share. Using CCSS as a figured head is in poor taste. I will discuss in the next post the essential thing needed : Engaged parents partnering with educators.

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