The Intersection

Saving the Common Core and America’s Education

September 20, 2013


Leo Casey, executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, a nonprofit that honors the life and legacy of the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, shares his view on “The Promise of The Common Core” and how it has been misconceived and under attack.

An op-ed in the New York Times’ Week in Review is emblematic of the best of this disapproving sentiment. Yet even it mixes together fundamental misconceptions about the entire Common Core project with legitimate issues of inadequate preparation for teachers and students and poor implementation by state education departments and districts. The Common Core is described as a “radical curriculum” that was introduced with “hardly any public discussion.” We are told that it is a “one size fits all” approach, built upon a standardized script that teachers must use for instruction. Finally, it is suggested that the Common Core is a “game that has been so prearranged that many, if not most, of the players will fail.”

This is the Common Core seen through the prism of a fun house mirror. In truth, the Common Core is neither “radical” nor a “curriculum,” but a set of grade level performance standards for student achievement in the core academic disciplines of English Language Arts and Mathematics.* Indeed, one of the more telling criticisms of the implementation of the Common Core is that in all too many states, districts and schools, these standards have not been developed into curricula which teachers could readily use in their classrooms.

The Common Core has been the product of a lengthy and multi-stage process. The English Language Arts and Mathematics standards were themselves first developed, using procedures that included major, substantive feedback from teams of teacher practitioners from across the country.** The two sponsoring organizations, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), published the draft standards for comment, and adopted them only after the incorporating changes that they received during that process. Finally, the standards were adopted by forty-five separate states and the District of Columbia, each with their own statewide educational decision-making body and process. At each step of the way, there has been vigorous and open debate. It is hard to conceive how that process could have been any more public or transparent.”

Far from a “one size fits all” approach, the Common Core was designed to establish broad performance standards that could be easily adapted to quite different curricula and pedagogical approaches. The notion that it constitutes an exacting script that every teacher would need to follow precisely is so far from the actual reality that it leaves one wondering if some of the critics have actually read the Common Core standards they so fiercely denounce.

Finally, the all-too-real ‘game’ that establishes winners and losers for life is the current state of American education, with its unforgiving inequality in the quality of education provided to the wealthy and to the poor, to white students and to students of color. Almost sixty years after our nation made a promise in Brown v. Education to end separate and unequal education, our schools continue to embody and perpetuate the radical economic inequalities that have grown so dramatically in American society over the past three decades. If anything, the Common Core gives us a new means to address this ongoing stain on our national education.

Read the full article here.


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