Common Core Drama Fest

So, at the risk of potentially alienating some of my followers, I am going to tackle the Common Core Standards. Not tackle as in, throw to the ground in a bullying manner, but tackle as in try to sum up my thoughts in a succinct and non-polarizing way. Although that last part will be pretty difficult, since by their very nature the Common Core Standards have become polarizing themselves.

Let me start by saying that I support CCSS. And here’s why: there have been standards around for years. Standards are not some new-fangled educational theory that our students are being experimented on with. All the states have standards. They have for a long time. The problem was that they all had different standards. Back in the day, when mobility was less common, this wasn’t a problem. It was unlikely that students would move from their home in the middle of the school year and go to a completely different state. It did happen, but it wasn’t frequent. Within the past 10-15 years, however, mobility has increased dramatically. It is common for students to move at least once during the year – not just between districts within a state, but between states themselves. I, personally, have had numerous instances where a student will be the subject of custody battles and go mid-year to live with a parent in another state only to come back a few months later to the original parent. Bottom line: kids move. All the time. All over the place. Now, let me tell you (although for those of you who are teachers, this will be a bit of preaching to the choir) how frustrating it is to get a new student from another state who is either a) so far ahead of your current class that there is no hope of interesting them in the material or b) so far behind your current class that there is no hope of interesting them in the material. This happens All. The. Time. This is because states have different standards that benchmark different skills and concepts at different points in time. Having a common set of standards across different states lessens that problem. Of course you still have curricular issues – you can’t help it if you do To Kill a Mockingbird fourth quarter but the kid’s last teacher did it first quarter so they’re bored out of their minds. But the common standards do help.

And let’s focus now on the operative word in the title: Standards. Not “test” or “assessment” or “curriculum,” but Standards. It is so frustrating to me when people (who are woefully uneducated on CCSS) get all up-in-arms because Common Core testing is taking over the world or going to cause more testing for students, or any other such nonsense. State testing has been around since NCLB started a decade and a half ago! Tests exist to assess students’ mastery of standards. The standards themselves are not a test, nor is there any specific test that is mandatory with regards to CCSS. It doesn’t matter which standards a state has; there is going to be a test to assess them. That doesn’t make the standards themselves evil.

Nor does it make any sense when those (again, pitifully undereducated about CCSS) individuals cry conspiracy theories that CCSS is some plot to communize our country or a means by which the federal government is planning to take over the world (or at least diminish states’ rights). This is just dumb. First of all, the standards aren’t mandatory. The number of states opting out of CCSS is testament to that. Obama isn’t forcing any states to adopt the standards. Second, the standards were devised at the state level, by people (who, by the way, are part of the educational field and profession) who simply wanted to create some commonality for benchmarks throughout the states. States and local governments still have the right to choose which test to assess the standards with, which curriculums to use to teach the standards, which method to use to evaluate teachers, and all the other important things conservatives clamor about. (Not trying to come down on conservatives, here, since I have some very conservative views on various issues myself, just sayin’ that the bulk of opposition to CCSS comes from conservative groups.)

And no, the state and/or federal government isn’t going to force the standards down the throats of homeschoolers any more or less than they did with whatever standards were previously in place in the state. And I’m tired of seeing posts where parents make snarky remarks on their child’s math homework because the method of delivery for a certain concept is different from how they themselves learned. First of all, just because it isn’t how you did it doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong, and second, the way the teacher is choosing to teach the skill or concept associated with that standard is not a reflection on the positive or negative value of the standard itself.

And I find it telling that the majority (not all, of course, but much) of the protests against CCSS come from people who are not members of the educational field and have no experience in a classroom. The overwhelming majority of teachers I have had contact with support CCSS (at least as much as, if not more than, they did the state’s previous standards). [Side note: And might I add that the educators I have encountered who oppose Common Core do it for legitimate reasons: CCSS content. Either they don’t like the way the standards are worded or they don’t think the standards benchmark skills in an appropriate way, or something truly related to the standards. If you oppose the standards for these legitimate reasons, then I have no qualms with you. Those are reasons that make sense.]

So just stop it already. Stop demonizing what should be a very straight-forward process of doing something positive for our nation’s students. I mean, if you really want to analyze ulterior motives and conspiracy theories, take a look at the companies who are involved in the CCSS and the tests that will be largely responsible for assessing them. Am I the only one who sees the relationship among the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, College Board, PARCC, Smarter Balance, Race to the Top, the VAM, and CCSS as suspicious? All those are in bed together, but no one seems to want to focus on the topic of profitability related to the CCSS. Not even saying that this is a bad thing, but I just find it odd that no one has questioned it.

So there. I’ve said my piece on Common Core. Whether you agree with me or not, your state probably has some version of CCSS adopted. So why not get the resources you need to prepare your students for the assessments that will follow? I have created documents for each grade level, 6-12, with hundreds of ELA CCSS question stems. The link to the 6th grade one is here, and you can find the other grade levels at my online TeachersPayTeachers store.

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