Monday, February 25, 2013

The Common Core - And Common Misconceptions

It’s time to Stop Being Stupid. That tag line is not mine, it’s adapted from Republican Governor Bobby Jindal and it applies to the misguided HB 4276; this bill seeks to kill adoption of the Common Core standards for Michigan schools.

As a fellow republican - and an active school board member -  I’m dismayed when I see legislation like HB 4276 introduced by fellow republicans. The “rational” for this ill conceived bill rests in the idea that the common core is a federal program and that it enables federal control over all local curriculum. If this reasoning were to be argued in a high school debate class the underlying logic would not survive 5 minutes before being torn to shreds by the average 10th grader. Of course, that supposes the 10th grader would have benefited from the type of core competencies supported by STATE DEVELOPED common core. That fact, the common core was developed at the STATE level, seems to have been overlooked, ignored, or intentionally misrepresented in the rhetoric associated with the introduction of this bill. None of those three motivations are good. Interestingly, the National PTA supports this STATE initiated program; a list of other supportive organizations is found here.

I’ve read the common core material, I’ve spent time understanding the objectives, and I’ve seen how I (as a school board member) will have significant control over how any of this initiative is implemented. There is no loss of local control, there is no federal intervention, and there are no mandates. The only tie to the “federal” level is the decision to rid ourselves of the widely criticized and largely ineffective MEAP and MME tests. The operational decision which “ties” schools to federal funds is the decision for Michigan to join as a governing state with the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. That decision included applying for and receiving federal funds to develop assessments designed to ensure kids are learning what they are expected to learn. This is not an evil federal hook designed lead us “blindly” down a federal path to “overreach” into our classrooms.

The common core represents a rational, well conceived foundation designed to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed in an era of global competitiveness. The framework for progressing can be debated, and the assessments can be refined, but to trash the effort as some draconian subterfuge is uncalled for. 

I hope that HB 4276 dies a quiet death in committee; such a fate would kindle my hope that we’re walking away from a “stupid” path and moving towards a smarter future for everyone in the State of Michigan.


Michael Tharp said...

I enjoy reading your blog from time to time. I am a Special education teacher in a public school. I disagree with you here. This will end up being a disaster just like NCLB. Many people think so. When you have to bribe people to accept something I think that speaks volumes.

Rob Lawrence said...

Thanks for following, but I'd like to share with you why I feel differently regarding Common Core. From my research I have determined that these CORE standards are just that, core. I see a tremendous amount of flexibility as to curriculum development around that core. State Boards and Local Boards have the ability to work with our professionals (Teachers and Administrators) to surround that core with the meat of the work. I think this scaffolding ensures a better foundation for my kids moving forward.

As with anything, the work of everyone on the ground will be the determining factor of effectiveness.