Friday, January 17, 2014

A credible critic . . .

It seems like my latest posts are about the Common Core or something happening in Olympia as the short session is now underway.  Given the scope of issues embedded in the Common Core initiative and potential impact of additional reform coming out of the session I believe that it is important to continue this focus.  I was, however, able to get in a post earlier this week on questioning and student engagement that resulted in a comment from Scott about the five questions from the post.

It was really powerful when I used the question "Can you tell me more?" I have never asked that question in that way and the one student I asked first was taken back a bit at first but then was able to expand on her thinking. A question that I often use in my teaching and did again today was, "Does anyone else have something more to add to that thinking?" . Kids really responded to this today and adding thoughts upon thoughts. 

OK, it is important to focus on our work, but one more update on Common Core status.  There are currently  48 states that have signed onto the Common Core and so far all have maintained that status through the push back and controversy.  Yesterday, however, Indiana's Governor came closer to suggesting that his state may  move from a break from the common standards to dropping them, something easier said than done as they are also a waiver state.

Pence, a Republican, said: "Hoosiers have high expectations when it comes to Indiana schools. That's why Indiana decided to take a time-out on national education standards. When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana's will be uncommonly high. They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers and will be among the best in the nation."

Also yesterday, Alaska joined Kansas in withdrawing from the the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium leaving 23 state in the consortium.  This is important as the costs will increase as states withdraw and Washington is a member of this consortium.  The majority of the controversy has been focused in the assessments so this will be important to follow especially as other organizations bring their aligned assessments to the table.

Today I learned in a FLYPAPER post that common core critics received a big boost from a George Will column critical of the federal government's role.  Though I don't always agree with his position, I have respect for his thinking and experience something the post suggests should be a concern for those common core advocates who laugh off the critics.

Common Core advocates should keep all of this in mind as they glibly extol the virtues of embracing common standards, of setting a national bar for excellence, of following an exquisitely crafted set of learning goals fashioned by experts. They should keep it all in mind as they respond to criticism with answers amounting to “there’s nothing to worry about, we have this under control,” or—in moments of weakness—something more condescending.
George Will’s column isn’t the real story here. It’s what the column represents: the quiet but growing and hardening principled opposition to Common Core.

No one knows how this initiative to have a set of national standards will play out over time, but it is more and more difficult to watch as school systems across the country race to support student learning needs for the spring 2015 common core assessments in a background of uncertainty.  When will elected officials at the federal level reach agreement on a replacement for NCLB?  Will that replacement move the pendulum back to more state and local control?  Will common core survive the push back?

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