I am certain that this discussion, regarding the impending implementation of the Common Core Standards in our public schools, will put a bee in the bonnets of the less initiated.
I don’t mind the fallout and will not be deterred by negative responses to my remarks. So let me state out front: I stoutly and sternly support Common Core and regret this has taken so long in its undertaking.
My interest in Common Core stems from the common sense notion that our children in Alligator Alley or Cut N’ Shoot Texas should have the same knowledge and academic preparation for success as the Brahmin crested children attending a Sixth Form school in Beacon Hill or Andover. Thus, I debunk the conspiracy theories that the federal government is dictating what is taught in our local classrooms.
For me, following more than forty years steeped in the bowels of education, which was spawn in a three-grade one-room class, and nurtured with a long relationship with world-renown educator Marva Collins, and culminated at Veri Tas University on the Charles, I have been able to figure out why there is such resistance to Common Core. Are you ready? Teachers and higher order thinking!
In order to Close the Achievement Gap, we need to Close the Teaching Gap. American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work.
With Common Core, teachers are asked to do more, and old habits are difficult to break. Teaching critical thinking skills is especially difficult for some educators steeped in the stagnation of criteria based learning. Common Core is more rigorous than existing standards using a modified Bloom’s Taxonomy and forces TEACHERS TO THINK. Teachers are required to impart skills that allow children to demonstrate not simply WHAT but HOW they know what they know. It forces teachers to rattle the dormancy of their reliance on requiring children to regurgitate rote recitation and memorization and now learning becomes performance-based.
With Common Core, teachers are required to emphasize student understanding, rather than teacher presentation. Students are required to “show their work” in core courses such as math, literacy and science. For instance, in math a teacher may ask what is the value of the integer four. For Common Core, the memorized answer as being the sum of [2+2] will not suffice? The question is still partly unanswered. Students must “show their work” and answer How do you know it is four since there are many ways to arrive at a sum total of four? For instance: [5 -1= 4]; [3 + 1 = 4]; [4+ 0 = 4].
But let’s not blame it all on the teachers. Our colleges and teacher licensure and certification processes have not properly prepared our graduating teachers with the expanded academic reforms required of Common Core. School administrators are often spooked with the burden of job security because of low test scores and have thereby removed creativity and flexibility from the classroom. Common Core allows flexibility and acts as a quality assurance measure to achieve national standards for all students.
Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the standards. And, so I ask the bearded, star-spangled, ideological driven, gun-toting nattering nabobs of nihilism who advocate the dumbing down of our education, how can the number of how many alligators you can shoot prepare our students to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before?
English Bradshaw is a well-known educator and community servant.