Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Common Core is “Obamacore.” No? What about this one: the Common Core is Bill – the “Brain” – Gates’ plan to take over the world? Still no? If you haven’t, then you’ve been living under a rock, somewhere. Yes, the infamous Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has drawn criticism from the political left, and the right. It’s fascinating to witness both sides of the political spectrum unite against the CCSS. If only they could do the same for a host of other issues and policies. Nevertheless, the CCSS is the most controversial, yet distracting, piece of education reform. It literally consumes almost all education reform discussions and debates via social media. This is why I call the CCSS: The Black Hole of Education.
Now, before you think this piece will add to the long-list of criticisms and concerns, let me assure you that it will not. I’ll not express my concerns about the CCSS. I’ll not offer criticisms or credit, either. Instead, I wish to express why, I believe, the CCSS has distracted educators from doing what they do best: collaborating. I’m genuinely concerned that educators are becoming so comfortable in complaining about the CCSS, that collaboration, via social media, is often neglected. Why? Well, more and more, I’m finding it difficult to discuss anything other than the CCSS. For this reason, and this reason alone, I’ve assembled a few questions, which I believe the “black hole” of education has sucked into the ether.
#1 Is our profession reduced to criticizing education policies, alone?
There’s a wealth of knowledge among teachers, which, in my opinion, is worth sharing. I, for one, would love to hear about classroom management techniques that have survived the test of time. Management “tricks-of-the-trade” that I, or anyone else, can use in the classroom. Veteran teachers must have countless stories they can share via social media, no?
#2 What are some of your instructional best practices?
I know “close reading” is a contentious topic, but what about other activities or strategies? What learning modalities have you used, and find most effective? And. Why? How do you introduce vocabulary? What is your advice for ensuring students use new vocabulary appropriately, and retain the definitions? What about developing a student’s reading comprehension skills? What obstacles can I expect, and what activities do you suggest for this important skill set?
# 3 What assessments do you recommend?
I know you aren’t a fan of high-stakes testing, and, believe it or not, neither am I. However, how do you assess a student’s mastery of a skill? What type of assessment tools do you use, and why do you prefer to use such assessments? If the data shows that students have failed to master a particular skill or concept, then how do you re-teach or re-introduce the content? What adjustments do you make during these lessons?
# 4 How do you design units and lessons?
Speaking of lessons, do you prepare some sort of lesson plan? How do you organize your daily lessons? Do you rely on direct, or teacher-led instruction? If so, how much time do you spend, on average, using this modality? Do you use student groups? If so, do you prefer heterogeneous or homogenous groups? How do you create these groups? Do you base your groups on student data?
Is anyone listening, anymore?
My fellow educators, I don’t mean to come across as naïve or sarcastic. I, sincerely, wish to expand the conversation beyond the CCSS fixation. Yes, there are plenty of concerns about the CCSS. However, do we not find value in sharing ideas or stories, as well? If our professional discourse becomes nothing more than dichotomous education reform debates, then we risk cutting our nose to spite our face.
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