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Common Core Reality

Tingley-021 color“So what do you think about Common Core?” I asked my niece, a young teacher with about 5 years’ experience teaching secondary English in an Ohio suburban school.

“It’s not that much different from what we’re doing,” she shrugged.  “Nobody’s said much about it.  It’s sort of business as usual.”

“Are you having kids read more nonfiction?” I asked.

“Some,” she said.  “We had nonfiction in the curriculum already.  Kids pretty much don’t like it.”  So much for Common Core.

Look, I don’t think Common Core is a bad idea.  Like most educators, I’m an optimist by nature.   While there seems to be a small eager audience for the Eeyores of education like Ravitch and Rhee, I doubt if many of them actually work with kids every day.  It seems unlikely that my niece or members of her faculty actually care that StudentsFirst (whoever they are) say the school policy in every state deserves a failing grade.  What those folks think has nothing to do with them.

If you’ve actually worked in schools for any length of time, you know that the hardest part about change isn’t coming up with a bright idea.  It’s implementing it.  Implementation is costly and time consuming, and it requires constant monitoring to guard against slippage.  Implementation takes a huge commitment by the school’s administration to make it a priority over all the other programs and activities that are vying for time, money, and other resources.

Common core 6So how much will it cost to implement Common Core?  The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which, by the way, authorizes charter schools in Ohio, estimates the cost at $1.2 billion for states for training, testing, and materials.  In December a state audit in Kansas found that it seemed likely that the Core could be implemented in the state for just $30 million over the next two years, still a huge amount of money given today’s economy.  And let me point out again, implementation is ongoing.  You can’t tie a bow on it after two years and call it done.  Already at least one state, Indiana, is rethinking its commitment. 

Unless curriculum review and implementation are ongoing and local, they have very little chance of being embraced by the rank and file.  Yes, what gets measured gets done, as the old adage says.  Teachers can be forced or intimidated to include items that will probably appear on the test; this is nothing new.  But so far Common Core looks like a lot of time and money for what’s going to result in … not much.  “Business as usual,” as my niece says, is a long way from, “It’s the district’s top priority.”  And still we refuse to focus on educational improvement one school at a time. 





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