Education Opinion

Common Core Now Loves Inertia

By Peter Greene — December 17, 2014 3 min read
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It is by far the weakest argument presented in favor of the Common Core (well, the weakest argument that is not, like “written by teachers” or “internationally benchmarked,” based on fabrications and falsehoods). It is the argument that we must stick with Common Core because dropping the standards would be too costly and disruptive.

This argument has been around since CCSS support started to erode. One of the first signs that Louisianna Governor Bobby Jindal and his state superintendent of education John White were growing apart was White’s spirited proclamation that dumping the Core testing would throw teachers into a “state of chaos.

Within the last month, two more states have given voice to plaintive cries of “stay the course!” The Hechinger Report presented “Tennessee Common Core Backtrack Leaves Teachers Stranded” which includes several concerns about the Volunteer State’s backtracking (a de-Core-ifying augmented by the departure of reformster Kevin Huffman from the state education commissioner position). Tennessee’s back-transition leaves teachers straddling both old and new standards. Said one teacher, “I make sure my students are exposed to both standards, but it’s only fair that they’re assessed genuinely and authentically to the way they’re instructed.” Not to mention the additional mess the discombobulated assessment creates in a state that is still all in on VAM, using test based bad data and magic formula voodoo to evaluate teachers.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant is making noises about reclaiming Mississippi’s educational autonomy and dumping the evil federally over-reaching Core. Some teachers are quoted as being not happy.

“I don’t think we’ve been teaching the standards long enough to tell if it’s going to fail,” said Robin Herring, a fifth-grade teacher at Eastside Elementary in Clinton. “It really scares me that if we stop in the middle of what we’re doing that we’re just going to move backwards.”

It’s not that I don’t think these folks have a point. But all of this seems... familiar, somehow. Look at the following quote:

“The education of ... children should not be ‘politicized’ in this way. This is not about what is best for students or best practices in education or even based on proven research, but rather more political rhetoric based on taking advantage of the latest buzz phrase or issue of the day and today it just happens to be ‘Common Core.’”

Quick quiz. Were those words spoken by someone opposing the Common Core a few years ago, or someone defending the Common Core today?

Answer: someone defending Common Core today. But you weren’t sure, were you?

Yes, it makes a mess when you change an entire system quickly and with little foresight and planning. Yes, it’s unfair to give Big Important Tests on material that’s not actually being taught. Yes, it’s bizarre to implement programs when we don’t even know if they work. Those objections to quickly booting out Common Core are valid today, just as they were when they were raised regarding the implementation of the Core in the first place.

When we were implementing the Core, we were all about blowing up the status quo. We were fighting inertia. We were building planes in mid-air and anybody who complained was just a tool of the establishment. We werer throwing out standards that had been rated higher than the Core because we needed to move forward, and do it quickly (even if we had no earthly way of knowing whether forward was really forward). People who complained about moving too quickly, testing too unfairly, throwing out programs and materials without reasons-- these were just people who Didn’t Get It. Back in those days, disruption was necessary. Disruption was good.

Now, suddenly, disruption is bad. Inertia is to be revered and respected. We have no proof-- none-- that Common Core is working, but we shouldn’t disturb it or throw it off course.

This has been a repeated pattern for reformsters. They used political gamesmanship, emotional leveraging, and rhetorical smoke and mirrors to install the Common Core, and now that those tools are coming back to bite tem in the butt, they want to change the rules of the game. “You’re making this too political,” cry the people who used insider political power plays to get their agenda in place. “You are being too disruptive,” complain the people who treated disruption as a virtue when it served their purposes.

It’s too bad we’re not having more of a conversation about Common Core’s (lack of) virtues, but that was a choice reformsters made five years ago. Those who live by the creative disruption must die by it as well.

The opinions expressed in View From the Cheap Seats 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.