The New York Times recently published an article regarding how many states have moved to adopt national standards. These national standards, also known as the Common Core curriculum, are designed to ensure that students will be college-ready. The move towards universal standards, viewed by the Obama administration as highly positive, does raise several questions.
Firstly, how truly national are these standards going to be? New York’s adoption review process aimed to create a hybrid set of standards with 85% Common Core Standards and 15% State Developed Standards. If every state is adding their own twist, in reality how standard are these standards? In a state as large as New York with very varied student populations, is making this review decision on a state level the best for our students? I truly believe that we, as teachers, have the best idea of what are students truly need and that we need to be part of important decision-making processes such as these.
Secondly, the adoption of these standards raises real questions about what this means for teachers. Race to the Top pushes for states to adopt these standards, but what ultimately becomes of them in schools? In essence, every state could agree to the standards, but if they’re not carried out in the classroom then ultimately no change has been made. I know that though my school is using the Common Core standards, I have not had to reform my teaching units. I don’t see this as a fault of the school, but I am wondering about how close simply adopting standards brings us to true reform. If these national standards are to be truly effective in schools and not just a veneer of reform then the focus must be on encouraging schools to use the standards. There is great monetary incentive for states to adopt the standards and that money should eventually trickle down to schools. However, as schools face budget crunches that sometimes prevent them from even hiring staff, where is the incentive for schools to adopt and use these standards?
More curious than all the above is what this adoption process means for our students. With changing standards, how will high stakes testing be affected? If the standards are intended to make students college-ready, when will assessment reflect college-style expectations? Not just in terms of the level of knowledge being asked of students, but really by what means we are assessing them. Many colleges are not focused on a single high-stakes test, but instead a body of work. Ultimately, I see that as the biggest game-changer for teachers and students. If states are adopting these standards, then they too must look at assessment to know if what they believed was right is truly they right decision for students.