The march to standardize and uniform the curriculum is a dangerous movement in a democratic society, and especially in one that is so diverse in cultures, languages, and geography as America. How can we really think that one set of statements of science objectives written by non-practitioners can be truly be valid for all learners, all schools, and all teachers?
In today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wayne Washington and Nancy Badertscher report that “Sweeping Changes to hit schools.” Beginning next year, Georgia schools, along with 46 other states will try and implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics and reading/language arts. The Department of Education thinks the Common Core is the best thing since sliced bread. Once again, the schools of Georgia will be up against an authoritarian movement to “standardize” education in the United States. And the state department couches the CCSS in helping the nation get stronger. If you believe that, then I’ll have a bridge that is for sale.
The common standards movement, and now, the the writing of a new generation of science standards rests in part on the opinion that state standards are inferior and inconsistent, and there is the need to increase student achievement, especially in science and mathematics, in order to remain competitive in the global economic environment. Its had to argue with this. However, it is not true. America is one of the most competitive countries in the world, indeed, number 4 in the world.
The drive to develop the common standards has also been adopted by the U.S. Department of Education, and in its Race to the Top Fund ($4.5 billion), states that did not adopt the common standards lost 70 points on the 500 point scale for doing so. Why do these organizations want to develop a single set of standards, and will they be any better than the standards that exist in the 50 states today? The fact is state departments of education around the country have in one sense been coerced into accepting the common core standards in order to apply for very large Federal grants, and there is the assumption that a national set of standards will be superior to standards developed at the state level. Oh, and by the way, Georgia was one of the Race to the Top winners.
There is an other movement that the Common Core is facing, and that is push-back from some state-level policy makers. Anthony Cody over at Living in Dialog wrote an important piece recently entitled The Common Core: The Technocrats Re-Engineer Learning. Anthony Cody explains that we need to look at the Common Core as the way technocrats are making it possible to “nationalize” achievement levels, and then allow “reward and punishments to be fairly distributed.” He then cautions us that the Common Core and High-Stakes testing are joined at the hip, and we should take heed:
I think that while many people at this point favor an abstract concept like “high standards,” there is a growing discomfort with “standardization.” We should remember that in the not-too-distant past Bill Clinton’s attempt to get national standards in place was soundly rejected on political grounds. In fact, the rules that govern the Department of Education explicitly forbid the establishment of national standards — that is why there is this constant effort to insist this is a voluntary state initiative, and this pretense that Dept of Ed grant requirements have nothing to do with it.
Continue reading “The Common Core Arrives in Georgia: Reasons for Caution”