(Guest Post by Sandra Stotsky)
Congress badly needs independent feedback on the very costly jar of snake oil that the USDE has enticed 46 clueless state boards of education into purchasing, with many national organizations handsomely funded by the Gates Foundation assisting in the seduction. Congress could do no better than speak to some of the many teachers and administrators across the country who, according to Catherine Gewertz’s June 29 blog titled “Educators Don’t Understand Common Standards, Boards Told,” don’t see differences between their previous standards and Common Core’s standards, adopted by these state boards this past year.
At http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2011/06/educators_dont_understand_comm.html Gewertz reported on a meeting for members of state boards of education designed to help them learn how to implement Common Core’s standards. Speaker Susan Tave Zelman, once Ohio’s superintendent of instruction, tried to warn attendees about the core problem. According to Gewertz, she said that “most folks just don’t understand how the new standards are different from the one’s they’ve already got.” “You’ve got to… make clear what is different between your current standards and the common core standards.” “I’m telling you, out there people don’t see the differences.”
Educational disaster is farce, as well. The sponsors of the meeting assured them that the biggest problem they face is “communication” and that the James B. Hunt Institute in North Carolina has secured a public-relations consultant to help them convince educators in their state to support their newly adopted standards.
However, it is not unreasonable for teachers and administrators to see little difference between the standards they had and what they now have. First, as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has pointed out repeatedly, based on its evaluations of state standards for over a decade, most states had poor to mediocre standards. Second, according to CCSSO and the NGA, the states also helped to shape Common Core’s standards (often with the help of the very same “experts” and organizations that developed their poor to mediocre state standards). Given the non-transparent process CCSSO and NGA used to develop and validate Common Core’s standards, why should teachers and administrators now scrutinizing Common Core’s standards for the first time see significant differences between the poor to mediocre standards they had and the standards they must now prepare to use?
If the new standards are much better than the old ones, why weren’t these differences pointed out to state board members at the meeting? After all, educators in these 46 states are being asked to spend en enormous amount of time and money learning how to use the array of test instruments, curriculum materials, technologies, and professional development aligned to Common Core’s standards.
Isn’t it time for state board members to justify to educators in their own state the decision they made to adopt Common Core’s standards as their state’s standards this past year? How many state boards have requested to review drafts of the curriculum models, guidelines, and other materials, as well as the specifications for the tests themselves, as part of their responsibilities? State boards of education, whether elected or appointed, should be as accountable to the teachers and school administrators in their state as the latter are going to be to the USDE for making all students college-ready by the end of high school. Teachers may begin to wonder how many of their board members ever read Common Core’s standards before adopting them.