At NCSS this November, I was on the lookout for data on the Common Core and how it is being used across the nation. There was a plethora of presentations that mentioned the Common Core and an enormous number of booths in the exhibit hall promoting or selling products that met the Common Core Standards for social studies. A few presentation titles included:
- Developing Students’ Historical Literacy Practices: Integrating Subject Matter and Literacy in the Age of the Common Core;
- CHOICES: Curriculum and Professional Development for Meeting Common Core;
- Worksheets Don’t Teach the Common Core;
- Common Core and the Document Based Question;
- Cure for the Common Core: Strategies for Teaching Complex Texts; and
- Beyond the Common Core: Internationalizing the Curriculum Above and Abroad.
These were listings on just the first 16 pages of 122 pages of presentations from CUFA (Council of State Social Studies Supervisors, NSSSA (National Social Studies Supervisors Association, and NCSS (National Council for Social Studies) members over 4 days. This national conference draws over 4000 attendees and presenters each year, so any topic that is at the forefront of social studies can be found there.
Common Core is definitely a hot topic at this time, which begs the questions (again):
- How are the 45 participating states using the Common Core? Do they still have their own state standards? Are their annual assessments based on the Common Core, or on their state standards?
- Why would Texas (and 4 other states) decide not to participate in the Common Core Standards? How do our Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) compare to the common core?
- How can I present at the national level and continue to make my content relevant to the Common Core?
The 45 states using Common Core appear to have whole-heartedly embraced them and are using them to expand and enrich their existing state standards. As with all new standards, programs and related resources, keeping the focus on research and evidence-based strategies and materials is key to success. In my experience, even the best materials need an effective, caring teacher. If the Common Core is used as another layer and level of integrated instruction, it seems to be a useful tool, but if it is considered a Bandaid or a “teacher-proof” tool is will not benefit the students it’s meant to serve, in my opinion.
Texas and 5 other states have not jumped on the Common Core band wagon. In a November 18th Dallas Morning News article by Staff Writer, Jeffrey Weiss writes,
“The Common Core curriculum, an effort to create voluntary national standards and testing for math and English, has long been criticized by some conservatives who say it’s being used to promote a liberal agenda.” It goes on to say,
“Common Core has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The Texas Legislature was so leery about Common Core that it passed a law this year that bans the state or school districts from requiring use of the national curriculum or standards.
Still, companies that produce school materials nationally also sell to Texas. And much of Common Core matches Texas requirements. It’s likely that Texas schools will use some materials also sold to states that adopt Common Core.” (http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20131118-common-core-critics-see-examples-of-agenda-in-class-assignments.ece)
In an October 29, 2013 Politico article by Caitlin Emma, says:
“Texas has arguably been one of the loudest critics of the standards, Aldeman said.
The state’s refusal to explore the Common Core was at the heart of why Texas didn’t apply for Race to the Top funds in 2010. Texas has its own college- and career-ready expectations for its students. Republican Gov. Rick Perry has been defiant in communicating with Duncan, saying he will not adopt “unproven, cost-prohibitive national curriculum standards and tests.”
‘In the interest of preserving our state sovereignty over matters concerning education and shielding local schools from unwarranted federal intrusion into local district decision-making, Texas will not be submitting an application for RTTT funds,’ Perry wrote in January 2010.” (http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/texas-no-child-left-behind-waiver-means-concessions-to-feds-98964.html)
A third article/blog from Challen Stephens at http://blog.al.com/wire/2013/11/unlike_alabama_these_five_stat.html states, writes
“Texas never left much doubt about where it stands. In 2010,Gov. Rick Perry wrote the White House and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to say that Texas leads the way in education reform and would not waste tax dollars on ‘the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests.’
Perry estimated adoption and implementation of the Common Core at $3 billion in textbooks, training and testing materials for Texas. He also dropped references to ‘state sovereignty’ and ‘unwanted federal intrusion.’”
From just these three articles, the Common Core issue in Texas appears to be highly political and controversial. Another article I read (not sited) mentioned that a Tea Party Activist likened the Texas C-scope curriculum to the Common Core and both are unpopular in the conservative camp.
Politics aside, my hope is that Common Sense will prevail and Texas will allow its professional educators to voluntarily do their own research into the Common Core and other comprehensive resources. Denying teachers access to a resource for political reasons is to deny students the access to resources that most other students in the U.S. have. Since I’ve been presenting at national, state, and local conferences these past 5 years, before and after Common Core, I’ve found that it has not helped or hampered my ability to present relevant, evidence-based strategies to other teachers. Since I am most definitely not trying to sell anyone anything, I have no stake in the Common Core. Any product that is being promoted as a “fix” for a school, a teacher, or a student needs to be analyzed carefully. Bottom line,
The most important component of any classroom is an effective, caring teacher who builds a community of confident learners.