Carol Burris, a principal in New York, was once a staunch supporter of the Common Core standards. She even wrote a book called “Opening the Common Core,” on how to help schools meet the common core through a rich curriculum and equitable teaching practices. She wrote it because “we thought that the Common Core would be a student-centered reform based on principles of equity.”
“I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted. The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.”
According the National Association of Scholars, a narrowing of the curriculum has occurred as schools and teachers have cut science, social studies, art and music in order to concentrate time and resources on tested subjects like math and English. The Common Core encourages this by placing literacy standards in all subjects and holding all teachers accountable for them.
Carol Burris shows what this flawed practice looks like in practice in a 7 year old’s music class:
I hear about those distortions every day. Many of the teachers in my high school are also the parents of young children. They come into my office with horror stories regarding the incessant pre-testing, testing and test prep that is taking place in their own children’s classrooms. Last month, a colleague gave me a multiple-choice quiz taken by his seven-year old son during music. Here is a question:
Kings and queens COMMISSIONED Mozart to write symphonies for celebrations and ceremonies. What does COMMISSION mean?
- to force someone to do work against his or her will
- to divide a piece of music into different movements
- to perform a long song accompanied by an orchestra
- to pay someone to create artwork or a piece of music
Whether or not learning the word ‘commission’ is appropriate for second graders could be debated—I personally think it is a bit over the top. What is of deeper concern, however, is that during a time when 7 year olds should be listening to and making music, they are instead taking a vocabulary quiz.
I think that the reason for the quiz is evident to anyone who has been following the reform debate. The Common Core places an extraordinary emphasis on vocabulary development. Probably, the music teacher believes she must do her part in test prep. More than likely she is being evaluated in part by the English Language Arts test scores of the building. Teachers are engaged in practices like these because they are pressured and afraid, not because they think the assessments are educationally sound. Their principals are pressured and nervous about their own scores and the school’s scores. Guaranteed, every child in the class feels that pressure and trepidation as well.
Wake up educators, Common Core is turning your school into test prep factories to turn out skill-based workers for big business. Children need to learn more than what testing companies determine are the essentials of an educated mind.