Monday, March 4, 2013

Common Core - This Too Shall Pass


Everywhere you look in education you see the words Common Core. It is plastered on the covers of textbook and workbooks being pushed by publishers. You see it infecting conference session titles and keynote speeches. It has literally taken over the conversation in education and every facet of it. Yet, nobody really knows what it means or what it will look like when it fully takes over public education in the states that have chosen to toss their eggs into that basket.

I have my reservations about Common Core in terms of what it may or may not do in by way of lasting impacts on public education. In many cases the standards are better than existing ones that states have been using. On the other hand, it has yet to be tested and proven to be any more effective than current practice. A lot remains to be seen but the one thing I do know for sure is the Common Core will come and it will go. As with any other initiative in education, just wait long enough and it will run it’s course and be replaced by something new. In many cases that “new” is just something old in a new package where someone other than a teacher will make millions off it.

With that being said, I am not getting worked up about Common Core and how it may or may not transform teaching and learning in our country. One of the big pushes is the notion that we will have a core set of standards that will be common. Yet anyone that has ever worked in a school knows there is no such thing as common. Every school and every classroom has its own nuances and contextual pieces that make it anything but common. 

It is this very reason that I chose not to focus on Common Core and obsess over every new textbook, conference session or CCSS aligned resource. Rather, I would like to focus on the true core pieces of teaching that should be common regardless of the standards. Let’s encourage teachers to look at effective questioning skills rather than teaching to a bubble sheet test? Can we move away from obsessing over the right textbook but show teachers how to use the infinite resources available at our fingertips in the technology rich world our kids live in? Instead of ballrooms filled full of conference attendees looking for the top ten iPad apps for CCSS, let’s promote discussions about what learning looks like and how many of us are getting it wrong?

I have been in education a relatively short amount of time yet I have been around long enough to know that things like Common Core will come and go. What should really matter is the dialogue we have about teaching and learning and the core beliefs we hold to be true. Programs such as Common Core will always be around in some form or fashion but the people in the classroom will be the only constant and therefore should be our focus.  It is time we shifted the conversation away from inevitable top down programs and started talking about bottom up beliefs about what is best for the learning of kids in our classrooms. 
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