"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, August 04, 2012

What can we do about the common core?

Here is the big question: We are forced to teach under the standards. What should we do? We have the responsibility to do our best for our current students, and this takes all our time. Also, many teachers are afraid they will be fired if they ignore the standards in class, and if they speak out against the standards movement.

My response;

There are two ways we can try to help students survive under the common core, and I am in favor of doing both of them: IMPROVE the curriculum and the tests (e.g. adaptations for ELLs) and SUBVERT them (e.g. do things in secret that may not be allowed such as promoting free reading and when teaching English Learners use the first language in ways that make the curriculum more comprehensible).

Yes, we certainly owe it to our students to do this. But there are limits to how much we can really improve the common core. Also, if our subversions work, the common core gets the credit, which makes things worse for the future.

The solution: Continue to try to improve and subvert the common core, but at the same time HELP US END IT.

I am very aware that working teachers have very little time and are under tremendous pressure. This is why most of the activism is carried out by retired educators and tenured professors.

The biggest problem we have in ending the common core is that few people know the facts about it: what it is, and the massive evidence against it. Let me suggest a path that requires very little time, no money, and no risk.

1) INFORM YOURSELF. Here is a quick and easy way: Get on Susan Ohanian’s mailing list: susanohanian.org. The Ohanian website is the center of gravity of the resistance. In less than five minutes a day you will rapidly see and understand everything. Susan collects and comments on articles in the media (eg the “outrage of the day,” “research that counts,” letters to the editor, and “notable quotes”).

My view is that Susan Ohanian, along with Diane Ravitch, have presented massive evidence that the common core is a gigantic rip-off, designed only to take money from the needy and give it to the greedy. And highly respected Professor David Berliner has presented the research that is more than enough to destroy the common core.

If you have energy for more, I suggest following Valerie Strauss’ blog in the Washington Post (The answer sheet: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet) and Diane Ravitch’s blog: dianeravitch.net.

If you do all this, in a week or so you will be much better informed that anybody on Arne Duncan’s staff.

2) SHARE THE INFORMATION. If you see something interesting, post it on listservs, facebook, twitter, or just tell your friends. The internet is our underground.

Also: Make comments on newspaper articles on the newspaper website. Right now, nearly all the comments posted are anti-teacher. I do my best, comment all the time, but I don’t think more than 20 people do this nation-wide.


Steps (1) and (2) are enough to stop the common core if enough of us do it. Right now, maybe 20-30 people in the entire country are doing it.


For those with the time and energy to do more (other retired people, like me): contribute to the discussion yourself. Letters to the editor, twitter, facebook, etc.


  1. Write/emial your legislators at all levels, local to national. You are a professional educator. Experience in a classroom with real kids is a perspective that has merit. Let politicians know that teachers vote.

  2. Regarding the common core standards, I am "getting educated" regarding the issues standards and how they affect all students. I have taught special education for 34 years, and I have seen a number of initiatives promoted through the department of education and our own state department of public instruction. The latest of these initiatives is Response to Intervention,(RtI) which, as I understand it, seeks to coordinate curriculum and instruction to help all students receive a high quality education. I am also studying poverty and education. I am interested in hearing from others about what they think of RtI, Common COre and students in poverty. Is RtI just another program aimed at cementing the core standards? And If so, what impact does this have on students of poverty?