It’s the end of Common Core (as we know it? We’ve already had that.)

I’ve used this song before so I searched for a new version. Hope you like it.

The End of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Part 2: Part 1 was when most states, included Florida, proudly announced that they had dumped the Core when in reality all they did was to rebrand it (here known as the Florida Standards), add and modify, and carry on.

News broke via a gubernatorial pronouncement that Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, was issuing an executive order directing the Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, to write new standards in time for adoption by the 2020 session of the legislature.

GOT salutes the replacement of a failed experiment in establishing national standards for education as do most educators. The only real protest GOT has seen mentions that CCSS had established a uniformity so a lesson from Idaho could be taught in Florida with no adjustment needed and that it resulted in an explosion of quality teaching materials. But neither is true and those who hold such a belief betray a naivete akin to that of the CCSS writers and those who pushed it.

GOT can’t use a lesson plan written by a colleague down the hall without tweaking it for the students in the room and his teaching style. Neither has there been an explosion in quality teaching materials. GOT has spent the last four years producing the materials needed for the Florida standards in Geometry that are not available anywhere, including the textbook, yet the students are responsible for the knowledge under the standards and the testing.

As long as the governor and commissioner bring the experts on board, unlike what happened with CCSS, so that early childhood and adolescent development professionals help to design age-appropriate expected outcomes for children, Florida will take a large step forward. With teachers, parents, and others, we can have a set of standards to lead the nation.

But there is an asterisk. A huge blot of caveat upon what should be positive news. CCSS complaints and criticisms do not lie solely upon the words; they also apply to the practices that have accompanied the CCSS that have made the CCSS more toxic in every way.

While rewriting the standards to restore literature and reading whole books to a prominent place in education, traditional arithmetic algorithms alongside new ways of manipulating numbers, and writing as a means of saying something meaningful, the practices around the standards need a careful review.

In addition to eliminating inappropriate standards, the following toxic practices must go as well:

  1. Scripted curriculums. Nothing is more devastating to teacher morale than the supposition by amateurs who know nothing about pedagogy and development that curriculum could be made idiot-proof (and by the way, teachers always knew that those pushing the curriculums targeted them as the idiots) by producing a script that teachers must read without deviation. It is also detrimental to true learning. No written curriculum can possibly anticipate all the questions a student might ask or the unending ways in which a student might misunderstand.
  2. High-stakes testing. There are many factors involved in educational outcomes and testing measures none of them. GOT is not calling for an end to testing, but that the stakes should be lowered and be only one of many factors used in evaluating the success of teachers, administrators, schools, school systems, and what is often overlooked as well, the policies of state bureaucrats and legislatures. (No, really, after twenty plus years of mandated reforms and changes by legislatures, when do the politicians stand up and accept the accountability they thrust upon others?
  3. Value-added models for teacher worthiness. Debunked by science and professional statisticians, these models reveal nothing about a teacher. The learning process is human-based and cannot be reduced to a data formula.
  4. School grading. School grades are based upon nothing but test scores, which have long been shown to correlate most strongly to zip code, that is, socio-economic status. We don’t need testing and grading to find out where a child lives. We have their address already in our records.
  5. Computer-based teaching. Online schools and vendor programs do not replace teaching. Even iReady, a program in wide use in Florida, recognizes how essential a teacher is. If a student tries a module twice and is unsuccessful, iReady switches the module off and notifies the teacher to intervene. iReady is an example of how computer programs are misused. Rather than be a tool in the hands of skillful teachers, where the program does not carry the load of teaching but is a means of practice and reinforcement, districts mandate its use and monitor hours as a means of test preparation.
  6. Data for data’s sake and the endless meetings to discuss data that waste time teachers could use more productively in planning lessons, gathering resources, and providing meaningful feedback on student work. GOT notes that his formal observation is two weeks away, when he will have to pretend to capture data on each student at the end of a lesson even as he knows that what he is marking down is meaningless for what needs to be done next in the class.
  7. Mid-year and baseline testing. An experienced teacher knows that baseline testing is useless: why give a test on the first day of school that only reports that students do not know what they have not yet been taught? Any benchmark that scores well on a baseline is misleading. Almost always, when a teacher reaches that point in the curriculum, she discovers that students did not have that one mastered on day one. Mid-year testing yields no useful data for a classroom teacher. Its purpose is to give the district an idea on how well the students will score on the annual tests in May. Many beside GOT question the loss of two instructional days to assuage the worries of district management.
  8. Checklist rubrics for evaluation. Danielson and Marzano contributed useful insights into the art of teaching, but reducing their work to a checklist is counterproductive. Campbell’s Law tells us that this approach puts the focus of teachers on the rubric and how to move over to the highly effective column. In other words, teaching stops being about student learning and more about teacher ratings.
  9. Misguided turnaround efforts doomed to failure. It’s not working and doubling down only intensifies the effort in futility. By the way, charter operators have figured this out. That is why they now seek to set up shop beside excellent public schools, not struggling schools. Sweetening the profit potential to convince them to take over a struggling school is not the correct incentive.
  10. Micromanaging by legislatures. Here in Florida, our legislature questions the teaching of science and would undermine it by requiring the teaching of all ideas as opinions and equal in validity. Sorry, but the earth is not flat and to pretend that idea is equally valid as the knowledge that the earth is a sphere is ridiculous. Sneaking in Bible classes as a mandated offering is another piece of foolishness in Florida this year.

Dear readers, you will probably think of more practices to add to the list. Comment away.

UPDATE: I wondered if I had missed something and I did–a whopper, a huge fist in the gut, what is arguably the most destructive practice ever imagined: third grade retention for 8-year-olds who didn’t pass the state’s reading test.

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