Archive | March, 2015

Three Glaring Errors of Common Core

27 Mar

The most glaring error of Common Core is that it is a massive takeover of education, based on erroneous philosophical and ideological assumptions.  The extension of these assumptions touches real people in schools, deceives parents and students, and involves colleges on many levels.  The foundation of this error has its roots in comparing America students to foreign students and considers America no better than any other nation.

The second error is that speed kills.  Common Core should have been piloted in one state, beginning with inner cities, and found either to have made a difference, or not.  The reason inner cities would be best for a pilot, is to determine whether the Common Core philosophy works in more difficult areas.  While targeting cities, if the Common Core does not work, the actual program results will be far worse once the program goes national and less attention is paid to the cities.  Rather than massive tax hikes, or a redistribution of wealth to pay for the pilot, states should have taken private money to incentivize investing in inner city schools.  If advocates of Common Core were serious about making significant educational differences with programmatic changes, smaller steps should have been taken.

 A third error is the underestimation of the American people by the federal government.  Children are our nation’s heritage and Americans take offense to government insisting on changing without checking with the people on the local levels first.  It is possible to be so progressive one forgets how and why the notion of progress could be entertained possible at all.  Such is the case with the present administration, often bent on select winners by comparing our students to those overseas.

Six Common Sense Questions Relevant to Common Core

27 Mar

The process of transitioning from NCLB, to RTTT, to Common Core would have been better served if six simple and basic questions were considered and answered openly and honestly.  The involvement of a wider-range of stakeholders throughout the process would have been in everyone’s best interest and would have slowed the process to allow for analysis and comprehension.  However, our government decided to rush through yet another federal program through the states, in a panic.

The six questions are simple and sensible:

  • Who is involved in the change?  Those involved in the decision-making, as well as those involved in the funding and assessment development should be completely vetted.
  • What are the specifics of the change and what does it entail?  Details are important and what is the actual change the government seeks must be considered.
  • Where is this change coming from, along with its funding, and where is it taking the nation and its people?  People want direction, not dysfunction.  If they sense there is no clear sense of direction, Americans are reluctant to trust the people that claim to know best.
  • When is the program implementation to occur?  Is there a timetable and will the nation be ready at most or all levels for this change?
  • Why is the change occurring at this time?  Clear and honest descriptions of rationale and impetus for change are vital for the acceptance and success of any programmatic change and even more so for those of national proportions.
  • How will this change affect the nation’s people, and in what ways is the government set to deal with possible unintended consequences?  Since experiences with the federal government have not always turned out well for the average American, there is the need to explain the details of how people’s lives will change with the new program.

Dealing with these questions could have soothed the national psyche and alleviated many concerns about Common Core.  Instead, common sense was bypassed, and the average American felt disrespected.  The results of this lead to amplifications of emotions on the parts of the American people and leaves glaring errors.

           

Three Reasons Why Common Core Will Never Succeed in American Schools

21 Mar

Aside from all the discussion and debate over the academic side of Common Core, there are other serious concerns that diminish Common Core from the start.  This blog post is about American culture resident in the fundamental nature of the American psyche surrounding athletics, especially at the secondary level.

First, since athletics is viewed as an extension of the classroom curriculum, should not the rally-cry of rigor pertain to expectations of both?  But this is not the case.  I write about this in my new book The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Common Core and It’s Impact on American Schools (2015, Rowman & Littlefield).  This is the first cultural concern that will never be overcome for Common Core to be successful.  It cannot connect itself to the very thing to which it is supposed to extend.  Try as we might, and with great failure looming, to compare our nation to those across the ponds.  Do these nations also have litigious societies catering to whims and hurt feelings, breeding fear into school boards across their education landscapes?

Dare I state that our laws and policies pertaining to athletes are so dumbed-down, they have worked their ways into classrooms all across America.  This is the reverse of rigor, a sort of “perverted incentive,” if you will.  Even private schools are not removed from the cultural quagmire. This is an American problem.  Teachers give passing grades to keep students eligible, parents use every excuse to pressure schools to come up with ways for athletes to remain eligible, including lying for them, finding online courses to remain eligible, threatening to go to the school board, and even retaining a lawyer.  Our culture has so disconnected rightness and virtue that individualism encourages exploitation of loopholes that favors athletes over  supposed requirements as students.  To this I write, “Shame on any teacher who has given a grade unearned to an athlete just to bend to pressure.”  Yet, teachers are living within the same culture that perpetuates this disconnect. Districts that expect more rigor from teachers, a more rigorous academic challenge for in-class students, yet cower from this same rigor toward athletes and competition, are themselves lacking rigor.  The Common Core cannot change this culture, because the culture that allows students to be viewed as athletes first is polar opposite to Common Core, demonstrating the hypocrisy that what goes on in the classroom does not extend onto the playing surface.

Second, with our worship of athletics and laissez-faire attitude toward students’ attendance, and weak-district policies allowing for students to compete outside the classroom, it is clear that what goes on outside the classroom calls the shots for what goes on inside the classroom, in far too many corners of public education.  Some eligibility rules are set by the state, while many others are set by districts.  Attendance at school is not one of those policies that is taken seriously by either.  If students are allowed to miss school regularly, have these absences excused by parents, or by themselves (if they are eighteen years of age), then how is this lack of rigor in attendance policy an extension of the rigor in the classroom?

We live in a culture that has little-to-no ethic, in terms of absence.  Athletics is a privilege.  However, the bottom-line is weeks and weeks of absences have no bearing on students being able to play for the schools they do not attend regularly.  Students and parents know this and they exploit it.  This is not just a secondary level concern; it is across our culture.  It is across our culture because we have dumbed-down our accountability requirements for student attendance, placing athletics above academics.  What would be wrong about students making up their academic deficiencies resulting from absence, before being allowed to compete? This is another major reason why Common Core will not succeed in American schools–students are not compelled to attend school regularly, while they are allowed an unearned privilege to compete and practice each day.

Students not required to attend schools for a specific number of hours per day, are still allowed to represent their school.  There are exceptions, and I am fine with these exceptions, which I will leave for another post.  However, exemptions are not the definition of culture.

Third, pandemic across the United States is this contrarian culture, counter to ramping up anything, except lawsuits if an athlete is not allowed to play.  Parents have no qualms about fabricating stories to excuse their students from school, take weeks of vacation, yet expect the school to make certain there is no impact upon athletes’ playing time. This is a national cultural problem.   I am in touch with literally dozens of educators across the nation at all levels, on a daily basis.  I teach in a high school–my wife teaches elementary school.  Anecdotes abound.  I am certain you have your own.

Therefore, aside from the academic and educational issues presented by Common Core–and there are many–there are at least three ubiquitous cultural realities challenging Common Core at all levels within American society, each so deeply ingrained that it is immovable and provides foundational evidence undergirding every other piece of evidence that Common Core will never succeed in American Schools:  (1) The disconnect between classroom attendance and earning the privilege of athletics participation, (2) Weak policy on academics which favors athletic eligibility over academic achievement and attendance, and (3) Lack of courage on the parts of state bureaucrats, school boards, and school staff to do what is right and face the current culture, which includes rigorous parental pressures.

Here is the link to my last two books.  https://rowman.com/Action/Search/_/zarra/?term=zarra

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