7 Common Core Challenges

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. Can ambitious standards like the Common Core work when set against a school finance system that systematically disadvantages schools serving poor kids?
  5. 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?
  6. Can the public, and consequently the political system, stomach some hard truth about educational performance? Or will that cause an erosion?
  7. 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.

9 Replies to “7 Common Core Challenges”

  1. These are astute questions, the kind we should expect from Andy. I suggest that we ought to be looking at how national standards have been playing out in Australia and New Zealand. Those countries, largely rural and of low population density, have been making the shift from traditional classroom-based continuous assessment in locally controlled schools towards more nationally coordinated standards for many years now, paralleling our own movement; but they have, in general, rejected our massive, cheap annual external testing for classroom-based, externally moderated assessment of students’ attainment of those standards, especially in primary school, in a manner reminiscent of the practices of the International Baccalaureate.

  2. You dance around the biggest problem that Common Core is ignoring. Its called poverty.

    Writing about inequity in finance is just another way of skirting around the problem of high school students who read on a 5th grade level and who will be thrown, unprepared, into Common Core.

    In states with graduation exams, will they put up signs in regard to high school graduation that no neighborhood school student need apply?

  3. A very important addition is the funding for everything-training, new materials and especially the technology. In Maryland, schools are being told that the assessments in two years will be online. Monies will be needed to buy the new equipment to handle the test.

  4. Issue #8 not mentioned here.

    Common Core standards are restricted to math and English. There are no common core standards for other core content areas (science, languages, and social studies or for anything else such as arts, music, etc.). What effect will the drive to meet Common Core standards have on the resources and efforts in other subject areas such as science? I work in Texas where Common Core is not an issue yet. But were I a science teacher in a state undergoing Common Core implementation I would be nervous about seeing an inordinate amount of time and resources getting sucked into the Common Core fields to the neglect of everything else. Will the math and English teachers get all the cool new toys and resources because those two subjects are the ones in which the individual schools, districts, and states will be evaluated and ranked?

  5. Bottom Line

    The delivery and assessment of education in the United States has historically been rendered a system beholden to local interests. There exists 200 years of inertia towards this effort. At the same time, Washington with the blessing of influential political leaders, insists upon a collective measurement of educational attainment. We cannot have it both ways.

    Any and all attempts to reform American education will fail unless the actors recognize and move beyond this essential reality of educational delivery and assessment in our nation.

  6. Here is an even more basic fact to chew and digest:

    There will be no reform or educational change of any kind without the active involvement and approval of the people willing and able to teach the children.

  7. In this post-policy substance political world, the largest obstacle to implementation is the support of the Obama administration. The Conservative Republican political entertainment complex will incorrectly label this as an “Obama takeover of education”, and the GOP governors will not be able to resist the pressure to distance themselves from the initiative.

  8. “today’s inadequate marketplace for curriculum and lesson plans”

    Huh? For my subject, English, the curriculum is already out there: appealing books that kids will be interested in. As for lesson plans, here’s a good one that I don’t need a “marketplace” for: (1) open your books; (2) read for 1/2 an hour; (3) discuss.

  9. Common Core State Standards does move our country’s multiple education systems toward shared expectations of all students -eliminating geographic distinctions. I concur that we still have much more work to do to address economic and resource-access inequities.
    There is increasing evidence that essential skills for success (communication, multi-faceted digital literacy, interaction and sensitivity with others – despite differences, project management, self-regulation strategies, analysis and critical thought) are often not measured and not integrated within traditional school activities.
    German social researchers, Rittel and Webber, in 1973, formally described the concept – wicked problem. Education is rife with these wicked problems, requiring multiple solutions and persistence through trial and error to address these problems, as described in these comments on the impact of Common Core State Standards.
    We need to start seeing that CCSS is one of several solutions – not to be implemented in isolation —- that can move our students in desirable directions.

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