Overzealous linkage of standards to high-stakes testing is dangerous, and we are experiencing its aftermath today (as the explosion continues to go off).
Meanwhile the Federal government is mandating draconian "scorched earth" financial action against States that abandon the Common Core, which makes political and educational leaders leery of the risks of dumping Common Core.
But there is an answer, as respected educational blogger/reporter Valerie Strauss suggests in the Washington Post: adopt the husk of Common Core [mostly the name] and then exercise State authority to review and modify the standards.
Strauss suggests three "modest" starting points:
Step 1: Insist that the State Education Department translate each standard into clear language that the public can understand. If the standard can’t be written so that the average parent can understand it, throw it out.For this purpose, DOE and the districts could create a Curriculum Review Commission similar to the Content Standards Commissions of the early 1990s, tasked with cleaning up the excess and overly technical jargon existing in the Common Core State Standards. That Commission should be co-chaired by a teacher and a representative of higher education in Delaware, NOT by a DOE bureaucrat or politicians. The commission should be mandated to have open meetings and take public testimony before taking on the task of rewriting the standards, and then those revised standards should be taken to an up or down vote by the State Board of Education.
Back to Strauss:
Step 2: Ask experts on childhood development to review the Pre-K to 3rd grade standards. Standards should be rewritten based on their consensus.This step needs to be entrusted to a sub-committee of the CRC (above) composed entirely of Pre-K-3 teachers and childhood development experts from UD and DSU. Their recommendations should again be folded into a final report that cannot be nitpicked, but must receive an up or down vote.
Step 3: Reduce the emphasis on informational text, close reading and Lexile levels.This one may take some explanation (pay particular attention to the very first words):
There is no evidence that reading informational text in the early grades will improve reading. Informational text in primary school should be read as a one means of delivering content or included based on student interest. Ratios of 50/50 (informational text/literature) in elementary schools and 70/30 in high school are based on nothing more than breakdowns of text type on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, not on reading research. The force-feeding of informational texts in the primary years is resulting in the decline of hands on learning in science and projects in social studies, as my teacher’s email attests. At the high school level, literature is being pushed out of English Language Arts to make room for informational text. For example, take a look at the readings of Common Core Engage NY curriculum modules for 9th grade. Literature is minimal, replaced by texts such as “Wizard of Lies,” a biography of Bernie Madoff, and articles that include “Sugar Changed the World,” “Animals in Translation” and “Bangladesh Factory Collapse.”
Another subcommittee of the CRC for ELA teachers and academic content experts.Strauss does not directly address CC Math, but the same process applies.
Of important note: while DOE should be able to supply ex officio members, under no circumstances should they (or elected politicians or union leaders as such) receive a vote on the commission. In my opinion, the best mix would be to create a commission that included about 45 people (enough for working subcommittees) with 20 of the spaces reserved for teachers, 5 for district content specialists, 5 for higher education experts, 5 for community partners, and 10 for parents. At least 2 of the teachers should be special education teachers, and at least one of the parents should have a special needs child.
Look: we can rail about CCSS and exchange memes on the internet for as long as we want, and that will gin up reservoirs of impotent outrage useful only to defeat some politicians who lack the ability to make that many changes in the first place.
But if we really want to get serious about giving a professional voice to Delaware teachers and higher education content experts, we need to be incredibly subversive and create the CCSS(D): Common Core State Standards (adapted to Delaware) and take that process outside the normal process.
Then we let the Feds threaten us, and we laugh and tell our Attorney General to do his (or her) damn job and defend us.