CCSS, High Stakes Testing, and the Fine Print

I’d like to preface my thoughts by saying how proud I would be to be a New Yorker this week. http://changethestakes.wordpress.com/

I am not opposed to standards. I am not opposed to assessment either. The problem lies, as always, in the fine print. When we initially began implementing Common Core State Standards, I said over and over that we were already doing everything the standards called for. In our classes, we were covering every standard we were being told to start implementing. I know this because in my classroom, I charted for myself and for my students a list of both sets of standards. I am a visual learner and wanted to see what was being covered throughout our year.With every Common Core standard I taught, I’d mark through it with a sharpie… then move right beside it and mark out the Mississippi State benchmark that aligned with it. By the end of the year, there wasn’t anything on one chart that wasn’t on the other It wasn’t because we were so far ahead of the game. It was because the main frameworks really weren’t that different. Both sets of standards, Mississippi’s benchmarks as well as Common Core, were giving the same skills to teach a fifth grader. Common Core proponents were selling it to us with the statement that this wasn’t a script of how and what to teach but simply a road map of where we need to be going. How we got there was left entirely up to us as teachers and schools. Again, no different than before. We were planning curriculum maps on our teams that were completely independent of any other school in the district. And, the other schools were doing the same. There were some great sounding words that came along with CCSS. Words like complexity of text, rigor, more in depth, adding more literature are words that very few people are going to argue aren’t worthwhile for our children. But weren’t we already searching for the best and most complex text our students could achieve success with? Weren’t we already holding our students accountable to high and rigorous academic standards? I think so. Was it happening in every school, in every classroom across the state? Of course not. But that will be the case with any school year… Common Core or not. So why do we need Common Core? My opinion lies in number 6 below.

But the fine print of Common Core is what people are upset about. There’s an uprising among parents and educators (although few educators are speaking out) simply for just a few reasons. We feel we have been manipulated, misguided, misled, and bribed.  Here are my questions:

  1. If educators, principals, and school districts are, after such a plethora of new information on the topic has emerged, still fully invested in going forward with Common Core State Standards, why not speak out about why? Why tell teachers to not give their opinions? Its a fact that teachers have been told to not speak out. It’s a fact that teachers have been told their social media outlets will be monitored. It’s a fact that entire groups of teachers have been told that they can look elsewhere for a job if they don’t subscribe to Common Core State Standards. Public silencing is extremely concerning to those who are looking for answers.
  2. Educational reform isn’t new. But the amount of uprising is. Never, in my years as a student or an educator, have I seen such turmoil and controversy surrounding a new implementation. Why is that?
  3. In regards to high stakes testing, who are we really evaluating? I promise you, its not the kids. I would hope that teachers and principals who have parents opting out their children would take notice in a big way. These parents aren’t against the school or the teacher. In fact, they couldn’t be more of an advocate. By choosing to opt their child out of high stakes tests, they are stating that their school, principal, and teacher can’t be judged by a number. They are advocating for true learning as opposed to learning for a test. These parents get it! They are brave! I am in awe of their educational courage.
  4. Do we really teach kids? Or are we teaching a test? When instruction is driven by what we know is tested, there are things that get shoved under the rug. And trust me when I say, the things that get shoved under the rug are the things we WANT our teachers teaching.
  5. Why is home-school and private school enrollment on the rise?
  6. Why is it not clearly evident that this is all about money? Bottom line.

Below are the Mississippi State frameworks for the year 2010 and the 2013 Common Core national standards. Most of you will not be interested in scrolling through the many many pages to see how they compare and contrast. But if you are, well here they are.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDIQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.columbuscityschools.org%2Fplc%2FPLDs%2520Stems%2520and%2520Frameworks.pdf&ei=_EA8U9_DF6WYyAGjoYDgBw&usg=AFQjCNElNcTj4yMyF4A90YaNr1JFSXd1qQ&bvm=bv.63934634,d.aWc&cad=rja

http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/curriculum-and-instruction/english-language-arts