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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Coddling the Common Core? A Response to Frank Bruni

By Peter DeWitt — November 29, 2013 2 min read
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While I have enjoyed a couple of N.Y. Times writer Frank Bruni’s columns focusing on LGBT issues, he is clearly misguided on his latest column Are Kids Too Coddled ,where he delves into the Common Core arena. Perhaps his opinion is based on the biased information the editorial board of the NY Times spoon feeds him but he seems to lack the understanding of what has been happening in certain states when it comes to the implementation of the Common Core (CCSS).

As a practicing school principal I take issue when he writes,

if you follow the fevered lamentations over the Common Core, look hard at some of the complaints from parents and teachers, and factor in the modern cult of self-esteem, you can guess what set Duncan off: a concern, wholly justified, that tougher instruction not be rejected simply because it makes children feel inadequate, and that the impulse to coddle kids not eclipse the imperative to challenge them."

He goes on to write, “In instances its implementation has been flawed, and its accompanying emphasis on testing certainly warrants debate.” Therein lies the issue. He writes a paragraph portraying parents and children as weak, and one sentence of his whole column mentions the implementation.

Any good leader will tell you that having standards is important, but the implementation can make or break any new initiative, especially one as large as the Common Core. In New York State, the implementation has been a debacle. The state education department took more time to make sure there were assessments aligned to the Common Core than they did to make sure schools had the resources necessary to prepare kids for the Common Core. Those assessments lasted 90 minutes per day for 3 days one week and 3 days the next week. They were longer than the SAT’s given to high school students. What’s worse is that special education students were given time and ½ or double time to take exams that they could not read in the first place.

In addition, schools receive a cut score and a point scale for each student 6 months after the exams were given. However, they do not get an item analysis which means they cannot see where students were successful and where they faltered, all of which could help guide instruction.

Mr. Bruni seemed to portray students and their parents as weak just because they are providing the necessary pushback to the Common Core. Most schools are proceeding with caution with the CCSS, even though these have been championed as the standards that will get students ready for college and career before there is any real evidence that suggests they can.

Mr. Bruni needs to understand the doubletalk that schools have been hearing regarding the standards. Most politicians, policymakers, and state leaders, including Governor Cuomo who seems to be doing the Heisman Trophy Award stance away from the NY State Commissioner of Education right now, have lauded the Common Core as just standards and not curriculum at the same time they are spending millions on curriculum solely tied to the Core, which will ultimately end up on high stakes tests. That suggests that these standards, which have both good and bad elements, are much more about curriculum than just standards.

Perhaps in the future Mr. Bruni should take off his bubble wrap and enter into a public school system to get a more well-rounded view of the Common Core before he begins portraying children and their parents as weak.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.