What does resist Common Core implementation mean?


Just Say No, Kthx? - IMG_4218

Common Core has now become a line in the sand with some folks, and is causing more in-fighting among anti-corporate ed reform folks than is healthy for a movement that is under as much pressure, and fire as we are. Let’s see where most of us agree:

  • Common Core was created by and for corporate interests, and excluded the input of teachers;

  • The folks behind Common Core bring intentions with them that are not in the interest of our children, or our profession. The potential is very, very, bad;

  • The tests will be (are) more of the same old garbage (just harder).

Things lacking a unanimity of opinion, but are held by folks still believing the above points:

  • We need to stand fore-square against the standards and not go along with this;

  • On the other side, we can implement the standards without the assessments;

  • The standards are just fine and an improvement on what we already have, and  will allow for more holistic and less scripted teaching.

  • Basically, are the standards separable from the assessment;

One of the many things that was hit home to me at the NetRoots Nation conference is that when you are advocating for a position, you have to give supporters a clear action to undertake that is credible both in that they can do it, and it is likely to affect a change.

I have yet to see a clear path forward in regards to opposing implementation of Common Core. I believe this is not because the folks involved are stupid, lazy, or poor organizers, there are not a lot of great options at this point. The sad truth is that crappy stuff has to happen first, to get folks awake to the point of how bad it is. Here are some of the barriers to action on Common Core:

  • Many teachers are “conservative” by nature and have to have their backs to the wall before taking action. Look at Chicago, and the years of “reform” that was done before the teachers and community could come together and say “ENOUGH”.

  • Many teachers do not see Common Core as a problem, or if they do, it’s a “same-old, same-old” situation (see below), and not a direct threat to our professional standing, and public education the way most Common Core critics do. You can’t ask people to take action against something they don’t see as a threat.

  • Teachers are used to working with lousy materials and guidelines. Standards are not new, and in California, overly ambitious ones have ruled the day for over a decade. We make lemonade out of lemons daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, we need more than these standards were developed un-democratically to motivate us to action.

  • What does “refusing” to implement mean? What does this involve? Recall that this is our job and we can be fired for insubordination. “Tenure” will not protect us, although group action may (as it seems to in the MAP test boycott).

What are some things that they can reasonably ask us to do as teachers? (Note these are examples from my district and follow Education Code from my state — California, YMMV)

  • Submit lesson plans that are aligned to the standards;

  • Collaborate in staff meetings, etc. based around standards (either planning or reviewing student work);

  • Teach lessons that are aligned to the standards (in California most teachers are evaluated every two years — so you can’t hide in your room all the time).

One of the most frequently cited reasons for dismissal of “tenured” public school teachers in California is insubordination (not following a direct order), so not following district directives to use Common Core and being “caught” doing that, could result in not just loss of job, but loss of your credential. This is why I find university professors with real tenure, demanding that K-12 teachers take a stand annoying.

What can you safely opt out of?

  • Developing lesson plans, or other work in a non-paid capacity (since all your lesson plans, etc. are the intellectual property of the district, it’s a bad deal all around);

  • Other work related to standards and curriculum implementation outside of your duty day, and staff meeting times;

  • You can usually manage to avoid doing the work above, because most participants in district trainings/meetings where those things are done, are asked to volunteer.

I will just point out, that this is the most difficult part of the decision-making that a teacher faces with implementation, because we are now faced with either adopting a new text series (all of which are not well aligned to these new standards, or suck for a whole host of other reasons), or writing our own curriculum (which is time consuming and makes you an active participant). The only advantage of the latter, is that is supports teacher input and professionalism, whereas buying an off-shelf-curriculum gives more to the corporate interests. Basically, you can agree to create curriculum for “the Man”, or refuse to participate and get handed “the Man’s” curriculum.

Remember, alternative standards and curriculum will be needed — Indiana was in a good place to go back to what they had. California already had standards similar to Common Core, so sticking with the standards alone isn’t a stretch, but neither would be going back to the old ones. I think this is one thing that should be decided on a state-by-state basis, and the standards would obviously need some adjustment in lower-grades to make them developmentally appropriate. If Common Core ELA and Math disappeared tomorrow, I don’t think my instruction would change that much, since I was headed towards more social studies and science in my reading and writing instruction.

When fighting the tests, there needs to be a clear call about what actions to take (and when) and the organization to make it happen. There is more likely to be movement on this, but it may not happen until ‘after” the first round of testing. Apparently parents are waking up to the downside of testing, and if they can be leveraged as allies, that will help the cause enormously. I think the more we share about the testing process from early implementing states (thank you New York for playing Guinea pig in all of this) the more we prepare folks to say no to the test. Once again, this is rife with opportunities to derail.

Since I’ve started writing this the BAT group has been focusing on some specific actions, such as calling teachers unions, and the California State Department of Education to oppose Common Core. This is a good start. I still think we have a lot more educating of fellow teachers on the issues to do before we can move ahead, and lord knows there is not much time left before we’re facing full-implementation and these tests.

Photo Credit: Just Say No, Kthx? – IMG_4218 by jeroen020, on Flickr

2 Comments to

“What does resist Common Core implementation mean?”

  1. July 14th, 2013 at 12:08 pm      Reply Lisa Trulove Says:

    Well said! I recently unsubscribed to BATs because of the lack of direction and a few unprofessional comments. I will return after they have had time to organize, should they accept me. I am also leery of the language used, as I am an elementary teacher Ina very conservative part of the country.

  2. July 15th, 2013 at 9:28 pm      Reply Laura Constantine Says:

    Nice to come across a teacher in Sacramento questioning the validity of Common Core. I’m a parent in Elk Grove and would love to chat with you about it!

    Great observations, and I appreciate your professional stance.

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