To the Editor:
Mike Schmoker’s Commentary “The Standards Are Not Ready” (Sept. 24, 2014) raises the important point that the Common Core State Standards have a great deal of promise, but that we have more work to do to effectively achieve their goals.
The standards can be refined to be clearer, fewer, and more aligned with students’ developmental needs, especially in the early grades. We also have much work to do to implement sound curriculum, instruction, and assessment. However, this must be accomplished in a way that allows teachers to be responsive to the learners in their classrooms.
Mr. Schmoker states, “For Linda Darling-Hammond, a clear, common schedule of what to teach, and when, in every course is the critical precondition to effective teaching. "This could be misunderstood as suggesting I favor the kinds of rigid pacing guides some states and districts are inappropriately applying to the standards. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Curriculum guidance should be lean (in Japan and Finland, for example, the entire national math curriculum for grades 1-12 is less than 20 pages long) and should allow teachers to create dynamic lessons responsive to their communities and their students’ needs. In fact, teachers of real kids in real heterogeneous classrooms will need to pay at least as much attention to learning progressions—so that they adapt instruction to where their students are and what they need next—as to the grade-level standards.
Curricular resources should be available for teachers to select, adapt, try out, and refine together in collegial settings within and across their schools. Performance assessments should be robust, developed with and scored by teachers, and provide opportunities for students to demonstrate learning in many ways.
The standards, used well, can raise learning and teaching quality. To do so, they need to be used as guides and not straitjackets.
Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education
A version of this article appeared in the October 15, 2014 edition of Education Week as The Common-Core Standards Offer a Guide, Not a Straitjacket