logo - runeman.org


to you, from me.

Chide me if you will.

All photos in this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, unless specifically stated otherwise. If something written seems worth your time and effort, use it under the same license.

This is an archived blog. Those interested in my current blogging, feel free to visit
Runemanations where new posts will go.

Wed, 04 Jul 2012

The Best Way

Is there a single "best"?

Today's education "reformers" seem to think so. We've recently seen a move by the state governors to forge the Common Core State Standards for all fifty of our United States. All sorts of work is going into making these guidelines the best guidelines. There might even be an assumption that the hundreds of thousands of children in today's public schools will each, individually benefit from the development of this Common Core.

Is there a single best way to teach every individual student? Are the hundreds of thousands of children in a particular school grade level so alike that the exact same curriculum will do them the best good? Will every student gain the same amount of skill after the school year finishes? Will every student tie for first place?

You might wish to suggest that the Common Core isn't expected to do that. I think you are right. So what is its purpose?

According to the key sentence of the first paragraph at the Common Core State Standards site: "The standards establish clear and consistent goals for learning that will prepare America's children for success in college and work." The trick in the wording happens around the words "clear and consistent goals" right smackdab in the middle of the sentence. By being "clear", the goals become easier to implement than if they were full of ambiguity and variation and focus on the needs of any one individual. By being "consistent" the goals tell us that variation and individualization isn't really a good thing for the students. They should all be evaluated equally against the same benchmarks. Sure, you are free to go beyond these goals, Sure, you can add material not covered in our prescription. Of course, you will need to do that while being careful to get these goals reached since we have plans to give all students a common test. That common test will be the instrument that judges the progress toward success. It needs to be a standardized test. If you could give your own test, how could we possibly compare Bob in Iowa with Corrinne in New York?

You might say, "Bob will never be directly compared with Corrinne. That's silly." I would again agree with you. It will be far more probable that Corrinne in New York will be compared to her own classmates. She and they and their school will be compared to the other New York students and schools. Mayor Bloomberg will perhaps close Corrinne's school because it will be judged "underperforming." It won't matter that Corrinne is hungry when she gets to school because her mother works nights at minimum wage and she can only get a quick bite of toaster pastry which she shares with her younger brother, the one that she gets out the door on time to get to his school. Bob in Iowa has it relatively good. He lives on a farm and was up early and carried the eggs in that his mother cooked for his breakfast. He's a bit tired because of the early wake up time, but he's been doing it since he was six and he has had a good breakfast before he and his younger sister get on the bus to school.

Bob is male. Corrinne is female. Bob is from a farm community with two parents at the breakfast table. Corrinne is from an inner city single-parent family and only she and her brother share the toaster pastry without sitting at a table. Bob and Corrinne have little in common except that they are both sophomores in high school. They do, also, share the same Common Core expectations that the Governors have proposed so everyone is treated equally.

I think I'd rather see Bob and Corrinne treated as individuals, cared for by teachers with ability to see their individual potential and to nurture it within the classroom along with all the other individuals facing their own challenges, perhaps even along with the Common Core expectations of the Governors. That would probably require more time and more money, though.

Did I mention that the cost of writing the Common Core and the standardized tests is supported by millions of dollars a year, mainly paid to corporations like Pearson Education who also grade the test and that the millions of dollars do come from the overall education budget of the states, money that might have otherwise gone to the schools of Bob and Corrinne to support their individual needs?

Why is it that we seem to think that an expert cannot be somebody local? Why do we believe that the governors and the likes of Pearson Education know better what is good for Bob and Corrinne than the local principal of our neighborhood school? Even if they are all very smart, has any of them met Bob or Corrinne to find out what they individually need? No, of course not. The parents, principals and teachers who know Bob and Corrinne have met them, though. We cannot listen to them, though. They are not really experts, no matter how many years they have been raising children, helping them with their pronunciation and their breakfast concerns.

What is best for Bob? What is best for Corrinne?

Is it the same thing? Is it provided by the Common Core State Standards?

posted at: 14:45 | path: | permanent link to this entry