National Standards Shows Cracks

Last week the education task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) endorsed measures urging states to oppose adoption and implementation of the federally “incentivized” Common Core standards.  According to Catherine Gewertz at Ed Week:

A package of model legislation opposing the common standards gained ground yesterday at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The organization’s education task force approved the package, we learned from a couple of folks who attended those sessions of ALEC’s meeting this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Gewertz added that the measures do not become official ALEC policy until they are approved by the board of directors.  A similar proposal was proposed last summer by members of the education task force but was tabled until the recent meeting.  Allies of Jeb Bush and the long, gilded arm of the Gates Foundation pulled out the stops to block the measure and may yet succeed at the board level.

I fear that even if the measure is approved by ALEC’s board, the battle over adoption may effectively be finished.  An effort to repeal Common Core standards in Alabama failed despite the fact that the governor proposed the repeal and votes on the state board of education.   If you can’t repeal national standards in Alabama under such favorable conditions, it may be very hard to repeal it in any of the other 40-some states that have signed on.

But just because the adoption debate is winding down doesn’t mean the national standards war is over.  Far from it.  So far states have done the costless and non-constraining step of adopting a set of standards.  Once the nationalizers try to make the standards concrete and binding by incorporating them into newly designed high-stakes testing, we are likely to see a lot more resistance.  And adopting those new tests, revising teacher training, professional development, and textbooks to fit the national standards and testing will require considerable effort and expense — causing more states to rethink their initial support for Common Core.

The ALEC anti-Common Core measure will be important for mobilizing opposition as those next hurdles have to be jumped.  Even if the nationalization effort successfully runs this gauntlet, which they may do, the probability that national standards and assessments will actually produce the end goal — significantly improved student achievement over the long term — is near zero.  If nationally setting goals and ordering progress toward those goals were the path to success, the Soviet Gosplans would have produced their economic triumph over the West.  We all know how well that turned out.

3 Responses to National Standards Shows Cracks

  1. Mark says:

    Mr. Greene, your nearly gleeful depiction of the difficulties that the Common Core Standards (state adopted, by the way, not nationally enforced) face due to always limited resources is in bad taste. Here is something that has come along that offers an opportunity to engage educators in deep discussion of better practice and for students to gain enhanced learning opportunities due to a more coherent and focused delivery of content, and you want to subsume that potential to ideological grievances. That’s the problem with infusing too much political ideology with pedagogy or with content: you lose sight of what works in the practice of the classroom. I don’t care if you call these standards national or global or local: the fact is that they are useful and applicable to me as a teacher, and they provide an opportunity for me to connect and dialogue on my practice and curriculum with other educators from across political boundaries. That’s all I care about, and that’s all that should matter if we really care about providing a quality education for all students.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Teachers who find the standards useful have always been free to make use of them. But clearly the people behind these standards don’t expect to win on the merits; otherwise why are they trying to force teachers nationwide to adopt the standards whether they find them useful or not?

      And riddle me this: how much positive impact do you think these standards will have in classrooms where the teacher is adopting them (or pretending to do so) not because she was persuaded to do so by their quality and usefulness but because she was ordered to do so by politicians?

      • Mark says:

        Greg, I am excited–not frightened–that our state elected officials are finally getting the backbone to adopt standards that can better facilitate my work with other professionals across state lines. I know firsthand as a teacher that students suffer when adults in positions of power can’t agree on even the most basic tenets of what to teach.

        Standards are a guide. Guides are useful, especially when they are well-written and clear. How much positive impact do I think they will have? If they result in teachers spending more time talking together both in-person and on-line about their curriculum and their pedagogy, then I believe that these standards can have a tremendous impact.

        Do you think we can “force” our school leaders to ensure that teachers have the time to plan new curriculum to meet these new standards? That’s what I’m concerned about.

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