I recently wrote a post entitled, "A Sane Reply to Bill McCallum: Why I Cannot Support the Common Core "State" Standards." I addressed directly some of my concerns and gave some general reasons that I can't go along with Bill McCallum's request to join him in supporting CCSSI. As you should know by now, he chaired the committee that wrote the mathematics portion of the new standards.
Bill wrote several comments in response to my post, which I will combine here:
Michael, I do believe that there is a growing chorus of insanity in opposition to the Common Core, but I do not consider you to be part of it, even though you oppose the Common Core. To be opposed to the Common Core is not in itself to be insane, any more than to support the Common Core is to be a dupe of the 1%.
And, I meant to add, I apologize if I gave that impression.
You list a bunch of things that apparently you think I wish were true, but all those things are bad. Why would I wish bad things were true about the education system?
Anyway, I do not agree that believing these things is a necessary condition for supporting the Common Core. And, in fact, they are not the reasons I support the Common Core (whether they are true or not). I support the Common Core because I think that shared standards can empower teachers in the work of teaching. I say "can" because this outcome is not certain. It requires solving many other problems to do with testing, curriculum, and teacher preparation. My fervent wish is that we move on to those problems using the Common Core as a foundation.
The Common Core allows for local innovations to have national importance. It is as much a stone for David as a club for Goliath.
What follows below is my response to the third of his comments. I decided to make it a new blog entry to increase the likely readership:
Bill, I don't claim to know what you believe or wish about public schools, but rather who and what funded and pushed the entire Common Core "State" Standards Initiative and why they are so doing. My point, very broadly is that this is not about improving public schools, but destroying and then privatizing them.
I doubt very much that many, if any, of the content specialist academics like yourself, who helped draft the standards, are out to destroy public schools themselves (though I have serious questions about what goes on in David Coleman's mind) in order to help the privatization movement absorb as many children and dollars into their nets as possible. That is why I have said repeatedly that far more important than specific objections to questionable items in the content standards, or philosophical objections that the old Mathematically Correct/HOLD crowd continues to have with the Practice Standards (the main reason, on my view, that Jim Milgram refused to approve the final draft of the math standards and is making so much noise against them), is the entire project - what I term "the very idea of national common standards." I firmly believe that it's the wrong approach to improving education or related problems for the United States.
I think some of the reasons given for their necessity (e.g., the "stability" argument that claims a child who moves in mid-term or between grades from New York to Texas won't be out of synch with the new district's teaching is at best naive and at worst disingenuous. I've worked closely as a classroom content mathematics coach to know that even two teachers who plan together have difficulty keeping their lessons parallel due to differences from class to class, hour to hour, a host of other variables that are generally out of their control, and their own differences as individuals. I've had trouble keeping two sections of the same course on the same page from day to day. And that's a GOOD thing. It means I'm adjusting to things that arise in each class that make that class, that hour, that day, different from any other. If I have to push under the carpet every interesting, unexpected idea and, as folks like to say, "teachable moment" that arises because of a pacing guide (be it from the district, the state, or Washington, DC, then I might as well quit teaching and turn my students over to a nice robot (or young tyro from Teach for America).
This insatiable drive for standardization is, quite frankly, the true insanity. I am too well-versed in the history of American education and psychology not to know that we've gone through cycles like this one before, particularly a century ago, with the rise of Thorndike, the efficiency experts, the intelligence testers, and the eugenics movement (I recommend that interested readers who wish to learn about that and similar eras read THE MISMEASURE OF EDUCATION, an excellent new book by Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn [see http://www.infoagepub.com/products/The-Mismeasure-of-Education ]. Nearly every aspect of those efforts proved wrong-headed and not in the interests of children (or democratic values). They were business-driven, and they have led to many of the ills we continue to face today rather than to any solutions. And now we have an educational plan mandated by, funded, and carefully guided by corporations, billionaires, and foundations and think tanks those plutocrats control. It's rather difficult not to notice and to refrain from wondering how folks in Washington, DC thought that no one would notice.
I will save for another post my specific complaints about what the math standards have and haven't given us from an educational perspective. But my previous column wasn't about that, as I think you know.
I acknowledged then, and still do, that you believe sincerely in the efforts you and your fellow committee members made in drafting the math standards. And I was pleased indeed to see (most of) the Practice Standards included, even if I am afraid I don't believe for one second that they will be any more successfully or widely implemented in American mathematics classrooms than they were over the previous 25 years when they were the NCTM Process Standards. The same resistance, ignorance, inertia, and confusion that kept that effort from succeeding will continue unabated. And the specter of plummeting test scores will both make those who might believe in those principles abandon them in panic, reverting to teaching "the basics," but the Practice Standards will be blamed by the old Math Warriors and the media (as they already ARE being picked upon) for the lower scores. I predict that in two or three total testing cycles, starting in June 2015, the more progressive aspects of the Common Core assessments will be entirely gone or mostly so. We'll keep the new multiple choice formats, probably, but certainly not any kind of performance tasks: too fuzzy, as my friends at MC/HOLD have said since the early 1990s. And when Americans panic about mathematics test scores, they ALWAYS call for a return to teaching facts, procedures, and the rest of the comfort foods they believe comprise the entirety of school mathematics (if not the entire discipline).
Of course, Bill, I would SO like to be wrong. I hope that 3 to 5 years from now, I'm writing daily mea culpa pieces and disseminating them widely. I hope things go well, that you, the leadership of NCTM and NCSM (and NCTE) are all crowing justifiably, "We told you to be patient! Of COURSE we knew this would work!"
But I'll bet you that I won't be; because that's not the way things are going to play out at all.
*************************************************** -- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University 625 Wham Drive Mail Code 4610 Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: email@example.com