Common Core — The Rorschach test of education policy


One of the things that is really annoying about discussion of Common Core, is that most of the folks saying they either hate them, or love them, are NOT teaching at the elementary level. It’s usually some secondary teacher (English or my old major, History) noting that doing things like “pre-reading” and questioning strategies were just making their kids lazy (see here for haters and lovers).

Folks are also saying amusing things like, “these are just standards” at a time when the ELA standards co-author is releasing some exemplars, that are traveling well beyond “standards” territory, and clearly into the land of instructional delivery. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I’m sensing that even though a lot effort is being spent on figuring out exactly what instruction with these standards should look like, someone (David Coleman for one) has already made up their mind about how we should be teaching kids. NONE of these discussions seems to include elementary students, or any sense of what’s developmentally appropriate.

I hear other folks saying that this will “increase rigor” and “streamline” curriculum from the current inch-thick-mile-wide tendency. That pretty accurately describes standards in my state, California. I thought it might be worth looking at the standards for upper elementary a little more analytically, and take a look at three things:

  1. How do they compare with the current standards (with no assumption that the current standards are working–they aren’t);
  2. Are they too narrow, or too broad;
  3. Are they developmentally appropriate, and are some of the exemplars appropriate for elementary;

These and other questions will be tackled in two follow-up posts on the standards.


Image source: the fifth blot of the w:Rorschach inkblot test

One Comment to

“Common Core — The Rorschach test of education policy”

  1. March 24th, 2012 at 4:26 am      Reply dogtrax Says:

    Good points, Alice, particularly around the idea of what these emerging so-called exemplars represent. If a district is going to say, “use these” instead of “let’s develop our own exemplars,” then that is just another sad tale of education. While I hope that won’t be the case, I am realistic to know that districts will take the easy way out and roll out packaged exemplars. It’s painful to think about.
    I am not an opponent of the Common Core, per se, (nor proponent, either) but I am grateful that my state of Massachusetts used its leeway to add in the narrative writing component that is mostly missing from the national Common Core (and if states don’t keep some part of narrative alive, that is yet another sad tale for our students as writers).
    Like you, I teach the upper elementary students and I have started to make some shifts around analytical and persuasive writing, connecting literacy to content areas, and more. There is value in these shifts. But we still write stories and we still read and write poems, plays and more. It’s all a question of balance.
    (Of course, that balance might be out of whack when the PARCC assessment comes down the pike.)
    Take care,
    Kevin Hodgson

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