Despite the adoption of Common Core State Standards by more than half the states in the nation, the sky remains firmly in place, impervious to the coordinated attack. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has declared himself “ecstatic” at the adoption rate telling the New York Times, “This been the third rail of education, and the fact that you’re now seeing half the nation decide that it’s the right thing to do is a game-changer.”
Game-evolver, perhaps, as even CCSS supporters are quick to point out. At Public School Insights, Claus Von Zastrow writes that high standards will mean little “if the tests are no good, the curriculum is weak, and schools have little or no support to make standards mean something in the classroom.” The Minister of Propaganda for the education status quo thus finds himself under the same big tent as Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli at Fordham. Even conservatives love the Common Core Standards, they note at National Review Online, with its call for students to memorize their times tables, learn phonics, and understand the country’s founding documents:
“Anxiety will surely rise when school kids across the land begin (three or four years hence) to take tests linked to these standards, and even more when those test results start to determine promotion from fifth to sixth grade or graduation from high school. (The development of those tests will soon start, aided by $350 million of federal stimulus funds.) But without tests and results-based accountability, along with solid curricula, quality textbooks, and competent teaching, standards alone have no traction in real classrooms. Adopting good standards is like having a goal for your cholesterol; it doesn’t mean you will actually eat a healthy diet or live longer.”
Right. Critics argue that standards don’t educate children. Right again. The true test remains implementation. For elementary education, the principal benefit of the CCSS is the recognition that verbal achievement is based on general knowledge, and the explicit call for instruction in language arts to include all key academic domains and be integrated with a content-rich curriculum. Is that a guarantee it will happen? Of course not. Even under a single standard, the states that fare the best will be the ones with the best trained teachers and the most thoughtful, rigorous curriculum.
Hey! That sounds like a real race to the top.