Sunday, April 20, 2014

More from the NY Times on why people hate the Common Core

First it was Jennifer Finney Boylan; now it's David Brooks. Each shoots down an army that consists mainly of straw men. Boylan's opponents are those who fear that the Common Core State Standards will indoctrinate their children and make them smarter than they are. Brooks' opponents also include indoctrination worriers, but his main target are those who fear that the CCSS amount to a top-down straight jacketing of education, and those who fear (not being straw men) that the standards put too much pressure on teachers.

Brooks argues:

It is true that the new standards are more rigorous than the old, and that in some cases students have to perform certain math skills a year earlier than they formerly had to learn them. But that is a feature, not a bug. The point is to get students competitive with their international peers.
Both ignore the more substantive arguments that I and many others have made. Here, for example, is my take on those "more rigorous" yet "flexible" standards:
[The CC] tells [schools and teachers] what the reading level has to be and leaves it up to them to somehow figure out what "supports" or "intervention methods" or "materials" will somehow give all students meaningful access to texts at this reading level...
Imagine being told: "You need climb this 200 foot cliff, but don't worry, we're giving you all the flexibility you want, because we're not telling you how to do it or providing you with any specific materials."
To those in actual classrooms, this is a bug, not a feature.

Then there are all the pedagogical biases that make the Common Core so problematic, which I blogged about earlier:
The bias towards lofty, everyone-can-do-it, one-size-fits-all goals; the bias towards an abstract version of “higher-level thinking” that probably doesn’t exist; the bias towards the supposed virtues of explaining in words one’s reasoning in math problems; the bias towards an abstract, information-aged, multi-media conception of “text”; and finally, via its abstract goals and its leaving up to schools and teachers how to meet these goals, the de facto bias towards the dominant pedagogical philosophies of the Powers that Be in education.
Beyond these concerns, there are all the ways in which the Common Core undermines the education, in particular, of special needs students, which I wrote about in my recent piece in the online Atlantic.

While Brooks and Boylan ignore the special needs population entirely, several special-needs professionals recently published a piece on the Huffington Post critiquing my article. More on that later; you can read an exchange between me and one of the authors in the comments section.

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