Everyone seems to be asking, is Common Core going to make it? An important and consequential question, but probably the wrong one. There seems to be little chance that in a few years standards won’t be higher, in most states, than they were a few years ago. But it is an open question whether ongoing implementation efforts will genuinely realize the initial and avowed promise of the Common Core – common standards across different geographies and a common definition of what college and career ready education looks like so that the sector can better strategically orient itself. And, of course, better instruction and more learning coming out of that.
The barriers to getting there are substantial. Here are seven big ones I see right now:
- Will there be adequate curriculum and materials for teachers (not just in a few places and victory gardens but at scale around the country), or will the new standards collide with today’s inadequate marketplace for curriculum and lesson plans?
- Teaching to these new standards and expectations is a seismic shift, will we be able to train, recruit, and/or use technology in a way that instruction can actually match the expectations? The politically inconvenient truth is that the standards for the kids are about to become more ambitious than the standards for many of the adults. Not a lot of talk about how to square that circle.
- Can the Common Core assessment consortia pull it off and develop solid assessment instruments that appeal to state officials? And if not, can the existing testing industry and infrastructure pick up the slack in a way that makes the new standards meaningful?
- Can ambitious standards like the Common Core work when set against a school finance system that systematically disadvantages schools serving poor kids?
- Is there enough of an educational center to resist critics on the left and the right who don’t like the standards for political and/or pedagogical reasons?
- Can the public, and consequently the political system, stomach some hard truth about educational performance? Or will that cause an erosion?
- Will what we aren’t seeing matter? The list of challenges is daunting enough but there is/are also thing(s) we don’t see. Events or unforeseen circumstances almost always intervene – for good or ill – in human events like this. In other words, in addition to the challenges we see coming, don’t forget the ones we don’t.