The Common Standards Mousetrap

by Robert Pondiscio
February 24th, 2010

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door, said Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He did not say “states will not be considered for federal dollars for rodent extermination that have not pledged to follow common state standards for mousetraps.” 

Will the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) represent a better mousetrap?  Fordham’s Checker Finn is concerned that the initiative is already being laden with heavier and heavier burdens.  Only states that are on board are eligible for Race to the Top dollars.  Now President Obama now says he wants to link states’  Title I funding to the new standards and assessments.  Why are the DOE, the White House, the Gates Foundation and others  are “sounding and acting as if these standards and assessments had already proven themselves,” Finn wonders.  It’s “enormously risky and, frankly, hubristic,” he writes.

A little humility would seem to us to be in order. If these standards and assessments end up representing a huge improvement over those in use in most states today, then much that’s good may reasonably follow from their installation and use. But what if they don’t? And even if they do, what about those (few) states that have done a creditable job on their own and for which CCSSI may represent either a lateral move or a step backward? In any case, would it not be prudent to appraise their safety and efficacy before demanding that they become the center of America’s new education universe?

No Caloric Content

by Robert Pondiscio
February 24th, 2010

Suggesting that great schooling is all about teachers is like suggesting that great restaurants are all about waiters.  If the food is lousy, the service doesn’t matter.  And make no mistake, the food is lousy.  We continue to put thin, tasteless gruel on the menu, and blame the waiters when the customers leave hungry. 

I must be not very bright, because I still can’t get my head around how we can create measures of teacher effectiveness without agreeing on what they’re supposed to teach first.