Peter Greene, an English teacher with 35 years experience, writes in the Huffington Post that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will result in a national curriculum despite claims to the contrary. His article provides specific examples of CCSS standards and explains how they are written, by design, to lead to a national curriculum.
Where the CCSS are broad and vague and subjective, middle men are leaping into the highly profitable breach. Textbooks, pre-built units, and various consulting firms are all leaping up to say, “We can give you the tools to create a CCSS-aligned curriculum. Or we can walk you through it step by step. Or we can just sell you one out of the box.”
He references a CCSS for 11th and 12th grade English: “Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.”
Greene claims that the terms used in the standard need specificity. How will teachers know what the standards writers, and more importantly the assessment items, mean by “fairly” or “thoroughly.” What would be considered the “most relevant evidence” on an assessment. More importantly what “biases” or “values” should the teacher suppose an audience holds?
What should this standard look like?
Compare the above standard to one from Massachusetts’s pre-Common Core standards for the same grade and component: “MA.11-12 C.19.30 For informational/expository writing: Write coherent compositions with a clear focus, objective presentation of alternate views, rich detail, well-developed paragraphs, and logical argumentation. Use effective rhetorical techniques and demonstrate understanding of purpose, speaker, audience, and form when completing expressive, persuasive, or literary writing assignments.”
The Massachusetts standard is easier for a teacher to understand and translate into their own curriculum. They understand what a coherent composition should look like, with details, proper paragraphs. etc. In addition, it doesn’t try to allude to things regarding the audience like the one in CCSS. Many different types of curriculum could meet this standard.
Is there a hidden agenda behind vaguely written standards?
The ill-defined CCSS make teachers uncertain about which curriculum will meet the standards. Greene believes this is intentional to encourage teachers to abandon known curricula and use the ones offered by those who wrote the standards and assessments.
Somewhere out there, in a triangle roughly between David Coleman, Pearson and Arne Duncan, is somebody with a specific idea of what he thinks those terms [standards] mean, and my students and I must nail that interpretation correctly. What we think doesn’t matter — only what that Font of Standards Knowledge thinks.
This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature. The adoption of national standards insures, for the first time in US history, that one national curriculum could work. In fact, one national curriculum created by one vendor would probably be quicker, easier, and cheaper than everyone figuring out their own individual way of meeting the standards.
Those who support a national curriculum and want to corner the 500 billion dollar a year education budget, may be patient enough to allow others to try to decipher the Common Core coded standards. Greene believes their failure to do so will give rise for someone, or some publishing company, to correct the incoherence of Common Core alignment by states. The argument, he claims, will resemble the one used to promote national standards.
“That process may happen organically, or at some point the feds (or their designated agents) may step up and say, “The individual states have created a patchwork or policies that are inconsistent and vary too much from state to state. To bring consistent excellence to all states, we need to make the same high quality learning program available in all states.”
The road to a national curriculum has been paved by the Common Core. Teachers, parents, and politicians need to throw down a road block and put those closest to the child in charge of education.