The 'Monster' at the End of the Common Core
I'm a progressive. A dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore constructivist. I believe that most decisions about education should be made by the people closest to the classrooms—by the teachers, parents, and leaders who are best positioned to know and love the kids. I believe that students know more and can do more than we realize. I believe in John Dewey, Ted Sizer, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch (at least her later works), Jonathan Kozol, and Alfie Kohn. I've been to Fall Forum and Edcamp and EduCon and I do school change (not "reform," as it's being used these days) for a living as part of one of the most progressive institutions of higher education in the country, founded by Horace Mann.
Since the Common Core State Standards emerged, people I respect have come out in opposition in a way that reminds me of a book from my childhood: The Monster at the End of This Book . In this classic, Sesame Street’s Grover begs us not to turn the pages, lest we unleash the monster at the end. He becomes increasingly agitated, building walls and threatening us as we get closer to the end. His panic sounds a lot like what I hear from some of my colleagues in the educational community.
They warn of standardization, the end of creativity and context and policies that throw whole communities under the "test is best" bus that is modern educational policy. They have some good points, but I don't think we can pin them all on the common standards. We can point to state policymakers who lead from fear and cynicism, sure. We can point to school leaders who hide behind a mysterious “they” when espousing bad pedagogy. We can acknowledge hostile context—the common core exists in a maelstrom of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top policies that lead state departments of education to adhere to overly-prescriptive curricula, revised (but still stifling) "common-core-aligned" textbooks and one long national nightmare of assessments used in ways even their designers don't suggest. Those problems certainly...
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