Critique of “The Dangers & Opportunities of The Common Core.” Written by Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Mary E. Dietz.

Significant education reform can neither be mandated nor standardized; if history functions as a teacher, The CCSS Initiative is likely to become an imprudent, reactionary, and colossal failure.

Despite their contemptuous evaluation of the CCSS Initiative, the authors’ interpretation of the CCSS is nothing short of positive, as said standards are consistent with the higher-level teaching and learning whose presence is desired in our nation’s classrooms. Unfortunately, the CCSS Initiative involves far more than just the content of the standards, and these additions render said standards problematic.

One of the authors’ myriad problems likely to result from the CCSS Initiative is the exclusion of creativity from the classroom, as curriculum, instructional methods, and assessment practices become standardized. Additionally, the usage of students’ test scores as measurements of teacher quality dramatically reduces the likelihood of cultivating a classroom culture that can result in higher-level teaching and learning.

To increase student success on standardized assessments, teachers have been forced to include curriculum resources manufactured by the same entities that are producing the standardized tests. Predictably, this has resulted in lessened teacher autonomy, a reduction in analytic thinking, and a rendering of their students as mere pawns in a grand profit-making scheme. The result of these educational obstructions is the alleviation of significant student learning.

Good teachers devise classrooms containing a wealth of opportunities that invite students to engage in the pursuit of solutions to their own questions. They stimulate students to contemplate concepts that interest them and to resolve mutually exclusive contradictions while assisting students in the development of skills and capabilities to think about complex ideas at increasingly deeper levels. The CCSS Initiative carries with it the risk of extinguishing the flames of passionate teachers, inhibiting student learning, while offering little potential benefits that would render this risk anything other than irrational.

The authors mention that the increased impediments to educational success that affect low socioeconomic students are likely to worsen because of the CCSS Initiative. These students, whose immersion into an environment fostering higher-level thinking is of optimum importance, are precisely those who are least likely to be placed in such a situation. Martin Haberman, in his hallmark study of the “pedagogy of poverty,” concluded that the instructional practices overwhelmingly utilized in regions of high poverty involve teacher lecture and rote memorization, activities deemed the least likely to cultivate higher-order thinking according to Bloom’s taxonomy. Such poverty-stricken students can only escape from what has likely been multiple generations of poverty through an exemplary education yet, sadly, they are the least likely to receive it.

The authors believe that the CCSS initiative is as likely to preserve the maintenance of inferior teaching methods as it is to increase good teaching. Common sense dictates that exemplary teachers will continue to participate in the practices that the Common Core standards prescribe, such as assisting students in formulating knowledge within the disciplines, and scaffolding complexity of text material. However, less capable teachers who visualized the “old” state standards as directives to be implemented with little thought will assuredly follow identical procedures with the “new” rules.

I believe that the only beneficiaries resulting from the implementation of the Common Core State Standards are big business. Perhaps that is somewhat cynical; however, as we approach a presidential election year, it would not shock me if it were later discovered that those entities financially profiting from the adoption and assessment of the CCSS had made substantial campaign assistance. In totality, I am bewildered that the supposedly impoverished state governments could be duped into investing untold quantities of money into what I am quite sure will be a catastrophic failure.

Successful teaching and its associated successful learning begins and ends in the classroom. It requires teachers who are continually advancing their practices and making adjustments based on their students’ current levels of understanding, readiness, and responses to inquiry-based instruction. It is preposterous to entertain the perception that a one-size-fits-all prescribed curriculum, with absolute ignorance of the fact that only the teacher is qualified to determine the readiness, or lack thereof, of their students to move forward has even an infinitesimal chance of success. The failure of previous federal attempts at education reform, specifically NCLB, resulted from the inability to comprehend that effective classroom instruction can only occur through increasing teacher autonomy and enabling her to teach curriculum entirely based on the relative levels of her students. It is overwhelming that the policymakers in Washington do not share this seemingly intuitive viewpoint, while attempting to, once again, lead our children into the lion’s den.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is just another example of the federal government mandating solutions to problems they cannot possibly accurately fathom. Our constitution makes no mention of federal intervention into the realm of education, and before the 1960s that sound practice was upheld. Based upon the colossal failures of the federal government’s attempts to mandate reform in what I have already appropriately described as a local matter, it is reasonable to expect another costly catastrophe. In place of the current initiative, I advocate empowering teachers with the autonomy necessary to prevent this imminent train wreck and to raise student achievement levels. Additionally, if the teacher fails to achieve success, at the very least, his failure is genuinely his and not due to following a series of ill-prepared mandates.

Currently, I am not teaching in a classroom; however, the expectation is to be teaching at some point in 2016. As a result, I am likely to experience the “joys” of carrying out a standards-based education. My only optimism is that there are significant revisions to, or even abolition of this ill-conceived, baseless recipe for failure that we refer to as the CCSS Initiative.

I commend the authors for writing a relatively complete article that requires few alterations. First, the authors accurately determined that the CCSS Initiative is far from the solution to our educational ills. Although just briefly touched on by the authors, any article on the depressing state of our nation’s educational system must be considered incomplete without the acknowledgment that the first step, (and perhaps the second and third, as well), to resolving our education problems is the address of the socioeconomic inequities in education and opportunity.

I have been to the city of Baltimore, Maryland on many occasions, and while Freddie Gray’s death in police custody served to ignite the riots this past April, the problems run much more profound. Freddie Gray should be appropriately viewed as a symptom, rather than a cause of the problem. The urban school districts are comprised of decrepit old buildings that seem likely to collapse at any moment. The teachers, textbooks, technology, and financial resources available to these schools are unsuitable for providing an education that offers a “way out” of the perpetual existence of crime, poverty, and unemployment experienced by the city’s population. The expenditures in urban schools appear to be one-tenth of those given to wealthy suburban schools composed of equal numbers of students.

I do not condone the violence generated by the riots. Still, one can certainly comprehend what it is like to live in a country that has demonstrated itself as a democracy in name only. These people have endured decades of oppression, have no voice in society, have been repeatedly failed by an inadequate education system, and, not surprisingly, feel as if there is no hope in sight. In a country as wealthy as ours, especially one than celebrates education as a means of improving one’s status in life, we must resolve to render education’s function as a conduit to improve one’s station in life applicable for all citizens of this nation. If said mission remains unfulfilled, no tangible improvements in education will be realized, Common Core or not.

Works Cited

Brooks, J. G., & Dietz, M. E. (2012). The dangers & opportunities of the Common Core. Educational Leadership70(4), 64-67.

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